[Answered] The India-Sri Lanka fisheries dispute has Become a Flash Point in India-Sri Lanka Relations. What is this dispute and how can it be resolved?

Introduction: Provide a background of dispute.

Body: Write main points of disputes and provide solutions to tackle this.

Conclusion: conclude with some suggestions.

The Palk Bay is a narrow strip of water separating the state of Tamil Nadu in India from the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. It has historically provided rich fishing grounds for both countries. However, the region has become a highly contested site in recent decades.

The main problem with Indian fishermen is that a large number of them are dependent on fishing in Sri Lankan waters, which is prohibited by the 1976 Maritime Boundary Agreement. Apart from poaching in the territorial waters of Sri Lanka, the use of mechanized bottom trawlers is another issue because this method is banned in Sri Lanka. The capacity of Indian trawlers, the use of synthetic nets, and the extended area of their operations seem to have adversely affected the livelihood of fishermen families of Sri Lanka’s northern province.

The fishermen of Tamil Nadu experience a lack of fishing areas due to the demarcation of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) in June 1974. If they confine themselves to Indian waters, they find the area available for fishing full of rocks and coral reefs besides being shallow. Moreover, under the Tamil Nadu Marine Fishing Regulation Act 1983, mechanized fishing boats can fish only beyond 3 NM from the coast. This explains the trend of the fishermen having to cross the IMBL frequently.

Solutions:

  • Welfare schemes: Govt should provide some financial commitment to Tamil Nādu to formulate suitable Centrally-sponsored welfare schemes. Which could facilitate the setting up of processing units for fishery products and promote other income generating activities in the agro-allied sectors.
  • Alternative livelihood measures: Central and State governments should implement in Tamil Nadu the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana in a proactive manner. This scheme covers alternative livelihood measures including seaweed cultivation, open sea cage cultivation, and sea/ ocean ranching.
  • Joint research on fisheries: Such a study should cover the extent of the adverse impact of bottom trawling in the Palk Bay region.
  • Put restrictions: A restriction is also required on the number of Indian trawlers that are allowed to operate beyond the median line specifying the maritime boundary.
  • Simultaneously, the two countries should explore the possibility of establishing a permanent multistakeholder institutional mechanism to regulate fishing activity in the region.

It is of essence that the source of discord between fishermen of both countries should be addressed. As part of a bilateral initiative, New Delhi and Colombo may consider instituting a Palk Bay Authority for formulating an integrated solution to the fishermen’s problems encompassing their livelihood issues and commerce in the area.

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