Action Village Spring Appeal 2019

Securing Landrights and Livelihoods for Fisher Folk



Dear Supporter,

Chilika Lake on the east coast of India, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon, has unfortunately seen a bloody side of reality. This global ecological asset, which is famous for its migratory birds as well as the Irrawadi dolphins, is also the traditional home of many indigenous fisher folk who have lost their livelihoods.

As well as not being able to establish their rights to their land, making them squatters at best, their livelihoods are seriously affected by three major factors:

Commercial Fishing: In the last 15-20 years, non-fisher folk communities (who are not traditional fisher folk), with the support of the state government, have begun fishing commercially and developing a prawn industry in the lake area. This has affected traditional fishing communities negatively and led to conflict (and deaths) over fishing rights and access to the lake. Aggressive and intensive fishing practices like the use of fine nets have proven to be very detrimental to the local ecological and socio-economic dynamics. Prawn mafias have encroached upon considerable tracts of Chilika creating net-barricades, and despite occasional police action the issue continues to pose great danger.

Ecological degradation: This degradation caused by increasing dependency on Chilika Lake, has resulted in adverse changes in the local ecosystem; the natural sea mouth has started silting up and the ecology of the lake has changed with more weeds, reduced salinity and fewer fish.  To conserve the lake, the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) opened a new sea mouth at Sipakuda. The new sea mouth has greatly increased the amount of salt water entering the lake, but the new mouth is eroding rapidly, and waves now disturb the breeding activities of the fish.  As a result, 28 villages in that area have lost their source of livelihood, increasing poverty, hunger, debt, child labour and migration.

Tourism: The development of tourist facilities on the lake and the prohibition of fishing in Chilika’s Nalabana Bird Sanctuary has also adversely affected the fisher folk. Traditional fishing practices in Chilika were for sustenance and self-sufficiency but now the government perceives tourism around Chilika as a potential major revenue stream. Despite the government’s claims to be pro-people it has systems in place that benefit the corrupt prawn mafia most. The fishermen’s cooperatives are also not functioning due to a lack of support and funding and adverse government policies regarding the leasing of water rights. Money-lenders and big traders take advantage of these vulnerabilities and exploit the fisher folk. The Chilika Development Authority (CDA) has succeeded in mobilising huge funds for ecological restoration of Chilika with claims of remarkable success including good returns for the fisher folk, but the reality is far from this rosy picture.

Affected by all these issues, the fisher folk are losing their means of income which in turn affects entire families; men are looking for alternative work, often bonded labour and/or are migrating for work, impacting family dynamics. There is also rise in dependency on alcohol and an increase in violence. 

On top of that, Odisha is vulnerable to multiple disasters affecting those who do live off the land. Due to its sub-tropical littoral location, the state is prone to tropical cyclones, storm surges and tsunamis. In 2013 Cyclone Phailin, damaged over 500,000 hectares of agricultural land and crops throughout the state.

This year, we have started a new project which aims to reduce poverty of fisher folk communities in and around Chilika Lake which will improve access to their land and secure legal rights to the land, promote sustainable land management and promote the adoption of alternative livelihood practices.   

This year, we are asking you to join us in supporting the fisher folk of Chilika Lake so they can adopt new livelihood practices, get their rights to their land and change their lives for the better.


Gift Ladder

£25 will allow 10 women to build their income generating capacity through learning how to grow and sustain kitchen gardening. They will also receive seeds to grow fruit and vegetables.

£60 will support 1 female bamboo artisan to develop her businesses through training and receiving raw material.

£100 will enable the district level committee to have meetings in which they are able to discuss local issues, take action and have dialogue with the Chilika Development Authority.

£125 will pay for one disaster management camp which will enable target villages in Chilika to be more resilient towards natural disasters.


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