Myliddy fisheries harbour revival project gets underway | Sunday Observer

Myliddy fisheries harbour revival project gets underway

The harbour with the pier as it is. pic courtesy: tnamediaoffice
The harbour with the pier as it is. pic courtesy: tnamediaoffice

With the Government launching a restoration project for the Myliddy fishing harbor, displaced fishermen in the Jaffna peninsula are preparing to return to their traditional fishing grounds in the area.

Last year, after occupying it for nearly three decades, the military released the Myliddy fisheries harbour and 54 acres around it, allowing displaced fishing communities to finally return home and be assured of livelihood means.

Land had been released in the area prior to 2017, but returning residents struggled to resettle, with no access to the fisheries harbour which was their main source of livelihood before the war.

Last Wednesday, President Maithripala Sirisena inaugurated the Myliddy fisheries harbour restoration and development project, that researchers and economists in the formerly embattled Northern Province would benefit particularly small scale fishermen in the Tellipalai and Myliddy areas.

President Maithripala Sirisena, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Wijith Wijayamuni Zoysa and TNA MP Mavai Senadhiraja lay the foundation for the fisheries harbour. Picture courtesy pmd 

Velupillai Thavachelvam, President of the Federation of Jaffna Fishermen’s Cooperative Unions (FJFCU), representing 118 unions, told the Sunday Observer that over 1000 families had already returned to their traditional lands near the fisheries harbour and more were set to return.

About 15,000 fisher families who were living in the Myliddi habour and its environs got displaced in 1990 due to the conflict and lived in several parts of the Northern Province. Livelihood problems were acute for these displaced fishing communities, who encountered grave livelihood problems with virtually no relief or rehabilitation assistance, Thavachelvam explained.

In the intervening period, owners of large fishing vessel fleets engaged in illegal bottom trawling in the abandoned fishing grounds of the displaced fishing community, he added. He accused sections of the security authorities of conniving with them, and urged the Government to take stern action against such persons. Poachers from across the Palk Strait were not only engaged in poaching but also in drug trafficking, turning the region into a hub for drugs, he said.

Thavachelvam said the returning fishing community needed better fishing gear, facilities and vessels, including multi-day boats, so that the region will once again become a fisheries economic hub, contributing to increased national fish production and improved livelihood of the local communities, he added. The fishing community in Myliddy had been thriving before the war, said Jaffna-based political economist, Dr Ahilan Kadirgamar. The restoration and development of the Myliddy harbour will largely benefit small scale fishermen in Jaffna, he said.

The ADB was also developing a fisheries harbour in Point Pedro, but that would be a deep sea fishing harbour that will assist larger scale fisheries. “Most fishermen in the Northern Province are small scale,” Dr Kadirgamar told Sunday Observer.

While the harbour has been returned to the civilian population, there was no infrastructure left, and that is the aim of the Government’s restoration project, Dr Kadirgamar explained.

“It needs an auction hall, and the harbour has to be dredged to create a place to keep a few hundred boats safe during the monsoon which hits this area pretty hard, net-mending centres and toilets and other facilities for the fishermen,” he explained.

By the end of the year, the restoration project should be partially complete and at least a few boats may be sheltered from the strong winds and rain during the next North-East monsoon, Dr Kadirgamar, who has been involved with the Government and other actors about getting the restoration project off the ground revealed.

Government officials say the master plan for the fully operational Myliddy fishing harbour had been designed by the Lanka Hydraulic Institute (LHI). The development project will include the renovation of a 150 year old building complex, the construction of a fuel station, ice factor, boat and engine repair workshop, a fish processing and canning centre and fishing gear shop.

The President had decreed that the Myliddy habour restoration would be undertaken as an accelerated development project, said Secretary to the Presidential Task Force on North and East Development (PTFNED) V. Sivagnanasothy.

Most importantly, the project will also include the dredging of the breakwater basin at a cost of Rs 150 million, Sivagnanasothy explained.

Restoration of the quay walls, jetties and navigation lights, development of other shore facilities such as auction hall, net mending hall, community hall and market hall will also be part of the renovation and restoration process, he added.

When he visited Jaffna last Wednesday to inaugurate the harbour restoration project, President Sirisena also ordered the army to release schools in Myliddy still occupied within two weeks, following a request by TNA parliamentarian Mavai Senadhirajah. The President had also indicated that this will be reviewed further at the next PTFNED meeting, Sivagnanasothy said.

Speaking at the inauguration of the Fisheries Harbour Project, TNA MP Mavai Senadhirajah thanked the Government for making the Myliddy fisheries harbour operational and urged authorities to further develop the agricultural and fisheries sectors in the North and East and take steps to release all lands of the people back to them before long.