The fishermen in Marunda, North Jakarta, may have to brace for more hardship in their lives following the building of the East Flood Canal and the administration's plan to restore a public beach in the area.
"The authorities asked us to remove our nets," Tiarom, a fisherman, said Friday as he looked at the fixed nets located several meters away from the opening of the east flood canal.
He said the administration's plan to restore the public beach, which is currently polluted and garbage-ridden, might threaten the fishermen's livelihood, because they had been asked to remove the fixed nets, which had been deemed unsightly.
Tiarom has lived and fished in this area all his life. He said his fa-mily had been in the area for three generations.
According to him, fishermen in the area had been through numerous setbacks.
"Our catch has decreased because of the pollution from nearby factories, which kills the fishes," Tiarom said.
He claimed the polluting began in 2000. "It reached a peak in 2006, when there were literally tons of fish dying everyday," he said.
Tiarom added that the pollution came from several factories in areas near Buyung Bay, the CBL (Cilincing Bekasi Laut) River, and the Kresek River, as well as other bays and rivers.
The pollution also took its toll on the shrimp farms, which, according to Tiarom, was a failed project forced upon the fishermen.
"This whole area used to be fish farms - mostly milk fish - and green spaces," he said of the area surrounding the canal opening.
The area now houses several apartment blocks, and a few hectares of shrimp farms along with the canal opening.
Tiarom said in 1985, the government told fishermen to start farming shrimp using artificial feed.
The activity was initially productive, but then the harvests began to decline, he said.
The artificial feed, coupled with increased pollution, made shrimp farming a less viable option for the fishermen, he said.
So fishermen chose to install fixed nets in the Marunda beach area, as well as catch fish using their boats.
However, this livelihood may be endangered in the future due to public and private development projects in the area.
Apart from removing the fixed nets, fishermen were also told to keep their boats out of sight, Tiarom said.
He added the authorities were planning to stop them from plying their trade as fishermen altogether.
"They told us to stop going to the sea and help run the public beach... working as vendors," Tiarom said.
Even if fishermen refused the career change, fishing would be much harder in the future, because not only would their nets be gone, but their residences as well, he added.
The houses near the East Flood Canal may have to give way to pro-jects planned to be built on the banks of the canal, such as the green area and the public beach.
"We were told to move to the apartments ... but how can we watch our boats if we live all the way up there? The authorities don't seem to pay attention to such things," Tiarom said.
Edi Saidi, the Coordinator for the Advocacy and Community Organizing division in the Urban Poor Consortium, said in the future, the capital might not have any fishermen left.
"There will be two big projects in North Jakarta: the North Coast reclamation process to make the area a tourism and business area, and the building of an international port," he said.
According to Edi, those two projects will only benefit the privileged while pushing the poor, including fishermen, aside.
Secretary general of the People's Coalition for Equal Fisheries (Kiara), Riza Damanik said currently there were 25,000 fishermen in the capital.(dis)