Using a cheap smartphone to catch fish

An Indian fisherman stands on his boat after a night working at sea in Chennai on November 21, 2017.

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Greater than 40 fishing villages have created these maps utilizing open supply software program

Trapped between rising sea ranges and growth initiatives which are consuming into the shoreline of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, fishing communities utilizing low-cost expertise have taken issues into their very own arms, studies Mahima A Jain.

“Fisherfolk would be the worst affected if frequent lands resembling mangroves, moist lands and seashores are misplaced,” says Saravanan, who solely makes use of his first identify. He’s a 35-year-old fisherman by commerce however usually rides alongside the size of the northern coast of Tamil Nadu with a borrowed MacBook Professional and a smartphone to map contested and susceptible areas.

“We’re among the many first to undertake such a mapping train alongside the coast in India,” says Saravanan.

He’s a coordinator on the Coastal Useful resource Centre (CRC) in Chennai (previously Madras), which helps greater than 40 fishing villages across the metropolis create land use maps utilizing open supply software program and reasonably priced expertise. A land use map helps determine which areas of land are used for which function.

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Coastal areas within the area have witnessed a surge in storms, floods and seaside erosion within the final decade alone. The devastating floods in Chennai in 2015 had been additionally largely blamed on encroachment of lakes and rivers for constructing initiatives, in keeping with a report by a authorities committee.

Fishermen like Saravanan have been spurred to behave as a result of, for the final 5 years, the state authorities has didn’t finalise a coastal zone administration plan (CZMP). That is essential to observe growth initiatives alongside the shoreline, defend the livelihoods of fishermen and preserve ecologically delicate areas.

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Mahima Jain

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Saravanan has led a number of mapping workout routines within the area

Lately – because the CZMP was delayed – a number of industrial and growth initiatives have sprung up alongside protected coastal areas in Tamil Nadu.

“So we mapped all our frequent areas and village boundaries in order that the federal government cannot evict us and personal firms cannot encroach on to our land,” says R Suraya, 21, a fisherman within the Koraikuppam village, which is situated to the north of Chennai. (Widespread areas are these utilized by fishermen for touchdown boats and drying the day’s catch and fishing nets.)

A one-metre rise in sea ranges by 2050 will have an effect on greater than 100 thousand fisherfolk in simply three districts of the state together with Chennai, in keeping with a 2017 report by the Indo-German Centre for Sustainability.

Lots of the villages which were mapped by CRC are amongst these more likely to be submerged.

The tiny village of Koraikuppam is certainly one of them. The Tamil Nadu authorities has provided to relocate the villagers. However in keeping with Mr Suraya this plan will not be possible as it will contain villagers transferring additional inland and a “lot of effort and time can be wasted to achieve the ocean” day-after-day to fish.

Mr Suraya was appointed by his village to be taught to make the land use maps as he’s its solely resident with an undergraduate diploma. Together with Mr Saravanan, he has led the villagers in an train to map areas on their telephones. Based mostly on these maps and conferences with the village council and native officers, Mr Saravanan has created detailed maps of scale utilizing open supply geographic information.

These embody land use patterns in addition to excessive tide, low tide and hazard strains, as per official necessities. They’re then submitted for official approval. That is an ongoing course of – some maps have develop into part of the official report, whereas others are nonetheless awaiting approval.

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Mahima Jain

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Widespread areas, utilized by fishermen for drying fish and many others., are beneath menace

“By doing this precisely the best way the federal government desires, we create scientific proof of what ought to and shouldn’t be there,” explains Mr Saravanan.

This fashion, he provides, these maps are akin to these produced by the federal government or non-public builders.

“When in comparison with authorities maps which lack any information on the village stage, you possibly can see that ours are the unique maps,” says Duraimahender, who’s the chairman of the Tamil Nadu fishermen’s affiliation.

“Now everybody makes use of a cell phone. We use GPS even once we are out on the ocean. So these maps have develop into part of our battle.”

He provides that additionally they assist environmental activism, offering sufficient data in disputes.

“For the federal government, the map is a few strains. For us, it is life,” says Ok Bharathi, head of the south Indian fishermen’s welfare affiliation.

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Chennai’s shoreline is threatened by rising sea ranges and growth initiatives

Fishermen in Chennai first mapped land use when the federal government proposed an expressway in 2010 that might reduce throughout an intertidal zone, affecting 14 villages, together with the nesting floor for the endangered Olive Ridley turtles. The undertaking was later dropped amid huge public opposition.

But mechanised fisheries, actual property initiatives and personal business proceed to take over frequent areas alongside the coast.

In such conditions, the maps are an enormous assist. Not too long ago, they had been utilized by the CRC and villagers to problem a plan – by the government-owned Kamarajar Port Restricted – to transform wetlands and salt marshes into industrial actual property. The maps have additionally been utilized in disputes involving metropolis “beautification” plans, street expansions and expressway initiatives.

Mr Saravanan says most mapping initiatives kick off solely when villagers sense a menace to their land from growth initiatives.

Up to now, he has held workshops in Gujarat, Goa and West Bengal however no village outdoors Tamil Nadu has caught the mapping bug but.

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