Hurdles entangle Kochi’s iconic Chinese nets

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There is a huge delay in procuring forest teak to substitute the worn out logs despite Kerala Tourism setting apart ₹2.44 crore to restore the nets

There is a huge delay in procuring forest teak to substitute the worn out logs despite Kerala Tourism setting apart ₹2.44 crore to restore the nets

It has been a long wait for a piece of forest teak for Thomas Kennedy Kurishinkal, one among the operators of the eight Chinese fishing nets, to restore his damaged cantilevered net. His is one among the surviving vestiges from among the two dozen of iconic nets that adorn the Fort Kochi beachfront.

The fault line lies in the huge delay in procuring forest teak logs that are between seven to nine metres long, to substitute for the broken or worn out logs, despite Kerala Tourism setting apart ₹2.44 crore about a decade ago to restore the centuries-old nets that have over time become synonymous with Kochi’s global image. Tourism officials have been demanding proactive steps by KITCO — the project’s executing agency, and by the Forest Department — that ought to grant permission to cut down the teak trees from the forests to ensure that at least the remaining nets get back their charm.

With forest teak remaining a distant dream, most of the net operators sought refuge in steel pipes to support the nets, thereby affecting their rustic charm. This is apart from some of them installing motors to pull the nets, due to non availability of fishermen to pull the ropes.

Mr. Kurisinkal, who is also the secretary of Fort Kochi Chinese Nets Association spoke of how his efforts to repair his net with a teak log turned futile, although he checked out wood depots, including in Perumbavoor. “Net operators like me are already in dire straits since climate change and sea erosion have affected fish catch. We hope the Forest Department acts fast to make the teak logs of specific size available, since fish catch improves during monsoons. The department now says that permission will be granted in a week’s time to cut the trees that had been identified many years ago. Our skilled workers will assemble the nets, under KITCO’s supervision,” he said.

Fishermen manning the nets have been further distressed at the sight of over a dozen costly ‘kalasanthi’ logs that were dumped at the adjacent Vasco Da Gama Square to restore the nets. Many of them have been worn out or have become termite-infested over time.

A tourism official attributed the delay to, among other reasons, the Forest Department being doubly cautious after the controversy over the alleged illegal felling of centuries-old rosewood trees from Muttil South Village in Wayanad.

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