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The Score :: Mar 15, 2006

Total raised: Rs.44,17,912.10
Total boats delivered: 44
Total engines delivered: 36
Plus, fishing tackles and nets
Click to download accounts as a pdf file

» Mar 15, 2006:Almost done:
» Sep 12, 2005:The score is forty:
» Jul 28, 2005:The long home-run:
» May 23, 2005:Just past the half-way mark:
» Apr 14, 2005:Stock-taking as ECCO15 is delivered:
—Why haven't fishing operations resumed?
—Time to receive foreign donations has ended.
—The boats-engines mis-match
» Mar 18, 2005: 9 boats delivered and other news
» Feb 23, 2005: ECCO4 and 5 delivered
» Feb 18, 2005: New directions
» A note on Reddi Kuppam
» Feb 07, 2005: ECCO2 and 3 delivered
» Feb 01, 2005: Tibetan soulmates
» Jan 26, 2005: ECCO1 delivered
» Jan 23, 2005: The agreement
» A note on KK Kuppam
» Jan 09, 2005: The final plan
» Jan 06, 2005: An emerging plan
» Jan 01,2003::Changing needs of a diaster area
» A note on east coast boats

Mar 15, 2006: Almost done: » go Top

ECCO had allotted funds for engines for all the boats supplied by it. But there was some paper work each of our three villages had to do in order to avail of the 50% subsidy. KKK and Nk availed 15 engines but RK availed only 6 engines- ie 4 short of their entitlement.

That left a good surplus after completing 40 boats and 36 engines. Instead of determining what they need, we asked for their wish-list. KKK settled on 4 more boats and fishing tackles. NK decided to go in for specialised fihing nets. These have since been supplied.

That stlll leaves a small surplus. ECCO has decided to keep this in reserve with a plan as yet unrevealed to beneficiaries. The plan is this: among the three villages, KKK is the only one with a major housing problem. They have deserted their unsafe hamlet and are now camping in huts. There are many large donors ready to build proper houses for them. But before that happens, the state government has to allot a large parcel of land for 230 households and services. People of KKK have been endeavouring to get this land. It has been a long period of strife for them. But there are hopeful signs at last- they may get brand new houses in a 6 months to a one year time scale. When that has happened, each family will have essential needs to begin their new lives. There will be unforseen expenses. ECCO has decided to reserve the balance, [appx. Rs 2 lakhs] to help KKK families outfit their homes.

A note on Extras: An item appears in the master List page under the head 'Extras'. It is necessary to explain how this came about. Donors may recall that each boat cost Rs 70,000. Where there were donors who sent that round sum or its multiple, we could assign whole boats to them. But many donations were small and were anything upwards of Rs 100. ECCO gratefully received these and made up a group of donors amounting to appxly. Rs 70,000. But these groups could be never amount to exactly that sum. Some were more and some were less. Also, in a horrendous instance of clerical error, ECCO-4 was assigned donors equivalent to Rs 90,407 - a Rs 20,407 excess! These errors are regretted. Finally now, rationalising the account without having to redo too many corrections, it was decided to transfer a sum of Rs 25,025.40 to the Common Fund under the head 'Extras'. If you have further queries on this issue please get in touch.

Sep 12, 2005: The score is forty: » go Top

After a long haul ECCO is at the target it set for itself. Forty boats to be delivered between three fishing villages. Later we upped the package and raised more money for engines for those boats. Your response again was generous - we raised more money than we set out to.

When the forty engines are also delivered there will be a sizable amount still left. We propose spending it on the three villages to complete what is left of their wish-list.

So the journey that began last year because of the tsunami of Dec 04, will conclude soon. There will be a final thanksgiving for all of you but here is big thanks now, to mark the occasion of delivereing 40 boats and 30 engines.

Many of you may recall that ECCO had planned to make the newly enriched life of fishermen sustainable. We had hoped to introduce them to biofuels. But since we were not quite sure if the authorities monitoring receipt of foreign funds, would consider that as strictly tsunami relief work, the project to create a pilot 1003 tree Pongamia plantation was financed by the GoodNewsIndia Foundation. In the story at that site, are links to a delightful slideshow of the planting in which the whole community participated.

Jul 28, 2005: The long home run: » go Top

With our target of 40 boats now within reach, there is some weariness but also much satisfaction. In the seven months since the tsunami, south India's fishing villages have almost completely renewed themselves. Most fishing villages have got more assets than they lost. Since May 1, fishing operations have resumed in all villages.

The enormous reconstruction has meant shortages and delays. ECCO was a pioneer in thinking up boats as relief and was the first in all of Tamil Nadu, to have produced and delivered a boat on the thirtieth day after the tsunami hit these shores. This early lead has helped us deliver 33 boats as on date - that is close to 5 boats per month.

The story of engines has however been different. A most untimely strike at the manufacturer, built up a huge back-log. ECCO chose to encourage fishermen to register their boats with the fisheries department, as this would also give them some protection against loss, and also enable them to avail a 50% subsidy for engines. We have paid out the 50% cost for 24 engines so far. But there have been delays. As of date, the first engines are expected only in mid-August.

After 40 boats and engines have been delivered we plan to hand out the remaining cash for buying additional fishing nets.

The third fishing village we have supplied boats and engines to, is Nainar Kuppam. Of the three we have worked with, this village has shown the greatest enthusiasm and openness. The idea of planting pongamia trees as sources of biodiesel has taken root and there is hope this village will demonstrate how small fishing communities can become self-sufficient in energy needs. Please visit the illustrated page that tells you more about Nainar Kuppam.

May 23, 2005: Just past the half-way mark:» go Top

It is 16 weeks since ECCO's boat building began, and we are at Boat No.21, with 19 to go. Reasonable progress, we submit to our donors, considering orders are raining on boat-yards of Tamil Nadu. On May 23, Reddi Kuppam received 6 boats, numbered ECCO-16 to -21[View images]. The next round of 6 boats are earmarked for Nainar Kuppam, the next village. After that we will reassess needs afresh and distribute the remaining boats.

May 1, saw fishermen of kkKuppam take to the sea after staying off for 16 weeks. Slowly fishing activity is resuming, although lean fishing catches in the first two weeks has dampened enthusiasm. Some mismatch between boats, engines and nets that continues to exist is another cause for full-scale fishing not picking up.

ECCO has created an Engines Fund which has nearly Rs.12 Lakhs in it. This will help providing engines for all boats that we build. You can see details of the Fund in the 'Boats and Engines Master List' link at the top of this column. There are two things stopping ready supply of engines. One, due to huge demand, there's a long queue. Two, the State government has announced a 50% subsidy which will make our funds supply twice as many engines as we would have at full price. But claiming that subsidy call for some procedure, the first step of which is for fishermen to register their boats with the Fisheries Department. Owners of the first 15 boats we supplied to kkKuppam are right now involved in that process. Once that is completed we will be handing over 50% cost to the Dept. on behalf of fishermen and the engines will be supplied directly to them.

Finally, some news on the position of foreign funds after April 1, 2005. As you know, no Tsunami relief funds from abroad can be received after that date by informal associations like ECCO. The date has not been extended. However, our bank has credited realised funds into the ECCO account cheques or remittances that were dated before April1.

As of today the following four contributions are yet to be realised, but we are hopeful they will come through. We notice that it takes nearly three months for a US cheque to be credited after presentation. The pending receipts are: [1]- $2000 from IC&EC, Fl, USA via Ms Indira Hazariwala, [2]- $4000 from Student Activities of MIT, Boston, USA via Ms Vidya Jonnalagadda [3] E .310 from Cary House Eight via Ms Tody Cezar, Potugal and [4] UKP100 from John Norris, UK. We will alert you soon as these are cleared.

Apr 14, 2005: Stock-taking at ECCO15» go Top

On Jan 26, ECCO delivered the first boat in all of Tamil Nadu to Karikkattu Kuppam. That was a landmark date for the new year 2005. Today is the Tamil New Year Day. And ECCO celebrates it, by completing its pledge of 15 boats to kkKuppam.

On Apr 11, at a small ceremony at the relief camp, we handed over ECCO11 and ECCO15. Present on the occasion were Ms Anuradha Bakshi, representing the children of Project Why, New Delhi and Mr B N Das, representing the Hueguenin Rallapalli Foundation, USA. Project Why is a pavement school for 400 children receiving education, care and self-esteem. The school went around collecting Rs 70,000 inspired by Anuradha's belief that when receivers of charity grab an opportunity to give, they are transformed. Speaking to villagers, she emphasised that hundreds of children went door to door and walked the streets to collect the money.

Mr Krishna Rallapalli has lived nearly twice as long away from India after he got an engineering education, way back in the sixties. But in far USA, India is on the minds of him, his Holland born wife and their daughter. ECCO15 donated by them is a part of his ongoing relationship with India.

Earlier on Mar 23, Ms Prarthana and Ms Priyanka, two schoolgirls of Indian origin studying in Holland visited the village and presented Rs.1.4 lakhs raised by Indo-Dutch Association and the International School at the Hague. On Mar 26, Mrs and Mr E K Parthasarathy came over to dedicate ECCO12 donated on behalf of their grandchildren, Ananya and Vivek. View some of the images of the day here.

Every one of the contribution we have received is similar and from a heart that was moved. There have been schoolchildren, senior citizens, humble shop assistants, foreigners, old ladies on meagre pensions, institutions on tight budgets and others from the most diverse backgrounds.

One of the questions that is being asked by some donors is why fishing operations have not resumed in Tamil Nadu. This is a valid question and when you ask a random fisherman, you are likely to receive one or more or all of the variants as answers: We don't have boats/ engines/ nets. We want everyone to get the materials and tools. We didn't get what we want or asked for. We need new housing. We want to go but our leaders tell us not to. Our compensation package has not come through. Our wives and children are scared. The government has let us down.

It is difficult to pick the exact answer. Being close to the ground to at least a few villages, ECCO can hazard a few answers. The fact on the ground is that no village has resumed all operations as before but almost every one has resumed some fishing, like shore seining. This involves only a little venturing out to the sea. That gives us a clue to believe that the fear of the tsunami has not quite left the fishermen, though they cite their women and children as being afraid. A false tsunami alarm in January and a true alarm on Mar 28, have not helped. Nor, frequent reports of earthquakes in Sumatra. They have not quite disconnected earthquakes and tsunamis. They silently suspect the situation is grimmer than folks tell them. There has also been insufficient counseling. We believe, this is not an insignificant set of reasons. They sit and wait and watch. The big moment will come when, decreased flow of relief, stories of greater frequency of sea-faring by other villages and the abundance of tools at their disposal all form the decisive push. When? We at ECCO believe that will be mid-May.» go Top

It is not to say, there is no mismatch of needs in the relief work. At ECCO too, we are short of money for engines. Fishermen urged us build boats, confident they'd be able to organise engines and nets from others. Then came the phase when all donors preferred to give identifiable hardware like a boat. And that has led to a mis-match. Now supplies of engines from the major manufacturer Greaves, is tardy with a two-month lead period. There is an Indian design known as Field Marshall, that is being evaluated by fishermen. It is still new and there has not been enough number of years in use. Yet, many favour it because of serviceability, availability and some additional claimed advantages.

We have begun our dialogues with kkKuppam on the subject and asked for their views. If they collectively ask for Field Marshall, after trials and consultations, we might order them but only after taking an application with a majority of the villagers signing it. Depending on which one we select we have the money for 4 or 5 engines.» go Top

Which brings us to another vexing issue we now face. As you probably know, it is very difficult to send foreign funds to India, citing social service. The governmnet has in place a tight regime known as Foreign Currency regulation Act [FCRA] to monitor funds NGOs receive. This is understandable as a lot of money used to flow unrestricted, to front organisations with many ulterior motives; among them money laundering, religious conversion, drug trade, terrorism fund etc. Getting FCRA clearance for an organisation meant detailed application, elaborate investigations and months-long wait. When the tsunami occurred however, the government quickly announced a relaxation. Till Mar 31, 2005 even loose, informal organisations like ECCO could receive money from abroad. This greatly helped fund the relief work. But right now, a lot of the money is stuck in the pipeline as the Mar31 deadline has passed.

Our hearts go out to very sincere donors like Association Enfances Indiennes, France and Students of MIT, USA. The first is spear-headed by Xavier Ray and sent e.10,000 and the second organised by Ms Vidya Jonnalagadda and her fellow-AID volunteers amounting to $4000. There are also a few smaller donations in the limbo. We are doing our best to have these released. We have appealed to the Ministry explaining the position. We are optimistic because many other relief organisations are in a similar situation. When the payments come through, we will be able to complete the engines-purchase programme as well and bring our relief work to a conclusion.

Mar 18, 2005: 9 boats delivered plus other news» go Top

Queues at boatyards are getting longer with donors from India and abroad pouring money for boats. That's good news for fishermen in the long run but bad news for boat deliveries which are taking ever longer.

Constantly prodding our builder Mr Gandhirajan has enabled us to deliver 9 boats so far to kkKuppam. But considering that ECCO1 was delivered on Jan26 and we are here two months later, that's an average of 1+ per week. And given that we could be building close to 50 boats, you get an idea of our problem and the time scale involved. But we are at it.

ECCO is a small group and we lack management time plus the fact that all boatyards in Tamil Nadu are over-run with orders, it is not quite feasible to develop another builder. Our best option is to keep after our builder- this we are doing.

As already informed in the last newsletter, we have turned our attention to the needs of villages other than kkKuppam once its need for 60 boats are met. In case kkKuppam needs more than the 15 boats we have committed to it, to get its 60, ECCO will make good the shortage. Currently we have promised 6 boats to reddiKuppam and may commit a similar number to nainarKuppam. All the three are in a continuous line on the East Coast Road and are within 6 km of each other.
When we eventually succeed in encouraging fishermen to plant trees that yield diesel substitutes, this contiguity will be of great value. But that is sometime in the future.

On an another tack, Indian Government's relaxation of Foreign Currency Regulation Act [FCRA] in the tsunami context comes to an end on March 31, 2005. It may be extended but we do not know that yet. So as of now regrettably, we cannot receive funds from abroad after that date. India will not easily forget the spontaneous outpouring of help from all over the world.

Finally, we must share an emerging mismatch between boats and engines to power them. Each boat costs Rs.70,000 and each engine Rs.45,000. You have responded based on our appeal for the supply of boats because our early interactions with fishermen revealed they could get other donors for engines and also recondition their existing engines. But a mismatch is emerging nevertheless. So we are now urging current donors to allow us a new flexibility. We will earmark a part of your funds for a boat and your name will go on a plaque on the boat. The balance will be pooled in an Engines Fund and used to buy engines. Of course, if you have raised funds specifically promising boats to your donors or we have already so committed to you, that will be honoured.

Feb 23, 2005: ECCO4 and 5 delivered» go Top

Boat deliveries are becoming routine and steady. As ECCO foresaw within a week of the tsunami, queues at boatyards have been growing, with donors rushing in with build orders. ECCO was the very first to order, build and deliver a boat on Jan26. That early support to and rapport with boat builder Gandhirajan has helped ECCO produce boats steadily.

On Feb 21, ECCO4 arrived quietly at the kkKuppam camp. On Feb 22, a small delegation of kkKuppam villagers accompanied DV to rKuppam for a pleasant inter-village meeting. kkKuppam has a fond, proprietory hold over ECCO because of our joint environmental fights against MGM Resorts. It was important we carried them with us. The meeting was very cordial. ECCO announced 3 boats for rKuppam amidst all round enthusiasm. We all went to the boat yard and loaded ECCO5 on to a truck.

On Feb23, 4 members of Association Enfances Indiennes, Paris, led by Anthoula Maray paid a visit to both the Kuppams. The score of boats pledged to rKuppam went to 6! Pleaseclick this linkfor some images.

Feb 18, 2005: New directions» go Top

When ECCO's boat programme began we had expected to give about 15 or so boats to kkKuppam. Because most active ECCO members lived near the Kuppam, we were going to restrict ourselves there. But we have been overwhelmed. On the one hand, support for ECCO has been enormous. On the other, kkKuppam has also needed just 15 boats from us to become a catamaran-free village boasting of 60 new boats. That is because of the help they have received from other donors like the Tibetans [see below], Cheshire Homes and others.

ECCO is now turning to the needs of the next village north, ReddiKuppam [-or rKuppam]. This is larger than kkKuppam and has been less affected in terms of lives and housing. But the means of livelihood have been devastated. Because of the bounteous help we have received, ECCO hopes to do something to make rKuppam also CatFree as kkKuppam has become.

Feb 07, 2005: ECCO-2 and -3 delivered» go Top

Read how ECCO's friends from France, Singapore and the USA converged on KKKUppam to deliver two more boats to the village. Click this

Feb 01, 2005: Tibetan soul-mates:» go Top

The tsunami relief work has certainly unleashed a huge wave of compassion. Amidst all this however, there have been disaster tourists and gesture tourists. The most despicable have been those trying to fish in misery with religious, political and commercial agendas.

It was therefore so refreshing to find the work of the Namgyal Monastery of McCleodganj. Ten Tibetans camped, integrated and produced assistance without strings and disappeared, leaving nothing but longing for their company in the fishermen's hearts. Read a report here.

Jan 26, 2005: ECCO-1 delivered» go Top

In a month --to the day-- since the tsunami struck these shores, ECCO-1 was delivered to the people of KKKuppam at a small ceremony at their relief camp. It was the first new boat ever given by anyone in Tamil Nadu since Dec26. The impact of the boat arriving at the village and the visible signs of delight was palpable in the well attended meeting. For a full report and pictures, click here.

Jan 23, 2005: The agreement» go Top

After extensive discussions, and keeping in mind ECCO's knowledge of KKKuppam's way of life, a simple two page legal agreement executed on Rs.20 stamp paper has been evolved. Its highlights are presented here for donor's benefit.

Page-1 states that ECCO with its concern for trees, water and the environment, responds to the post-tsunami situation and donates a 27' boat to the nominees of the village panchayat with the four conditions as follows: 1- the boat may not be sold or removed to another village, 2- It's name, donor panel or signs of its being a donation may not be changed, 3-if the panchayat chooses to change the nominees, the change shall be notified within 30 days and 4- the boat shall be well-maintained and insured. The panchayat Headman [Periadanam] and a minimum of 5 of the ten members of the panchayat, sign as guarantors to this agreement. If any of these rules are breached, ECCO reserves the right to lodge a complaint with the police or sue in courts of law, both the beneficiaries and the panchayat.

Page-2 is a schedule to the agreement with 5 sections: 1, is the boat name, 2- signatures of three beneficiaries, 3- signatures of the panchayat Headman and five members, 4- signatures of ECCO President and Secretary, 5-signatures of two witnesses.

Jan 09, 2005: The final plan» go Top

A meeting took place in Muttukkadu to finalise the details of ECCO's plan to focus on the means of livelihoods as the best long term relief. The meeting was attended by D V Sridharan, [President of ECCO], Col. K S Rajan [Rtd] [Member ECCO], P Shankar, [President of Muttukkadu Panchayat], S Sanjeevi, [Union Councillor, Muttukkadu Panchayat], A Arumuga Chettiar [Periadanam or Headman of K K Kuppam] and seven members of the K K Kuppam community.

After discussion, it was agreed that ECCO will concentrate on giving as many boats as possible as all crafts have been destroyed or lost. To put about 200 sea farers of K K Kuppam to work, at least 60 FRP boats of 27' will be required. Many offers of help for procuring nets have been coming in and about 7 or 8 engines can be refurbished and got ready. Therefore ECCO should retain tight focus on boat procurement.

The fishermen endorsed the selection of Son India as the boat builder, whose owner, S Gandhi Rajan is an ex-fisherman and has built these boats for twenty years. Also, many of his boats had successfully plied out of K K Kuppam before Dec26. They feel safe in his boats as polyurethane foam compartments in the double-bottom give them floatation even if it's flooded 100%. The yard is additionally in the next village, Kanathur which means transport costs will be lower and fishermen can actively supervise construction.

It was agreed that each of the boats will be handed over to four beneficiaries, selected by the community after due discussion among themselves. A legal agreement will be entered into between ECCO and them and the boats will be duly registered with the fisheries department. If any subsidy is received at a future date, it will be pooled for procuring more boats.

The boats will put to sea after outfitting them with nets and engines from other donors, and when a small fleet has formed ready for fishing, in order to get over the fear that has set in after the tsunami. They believe it will be at least another month before that happens. However boats must be procured now for two reasons. One, the boat-builders will soon be busy with orders. Two, a donated boat actually arriving at the village will encourage other donors to act quickly.

The meeting broke up after the gathering deeply appreciated ECCO and its donors for being the first to have developed a well-thought out action plan. They noted that this had happened despite ECCO being a very a small organisation with no financial muscle.

Jan 06, 2005: An emerging plan» go Top

Just as forceful as the tsunami itself has been the outpouring of relief response. Even our modest organisation is being beseeched by heart-broken global citizens offering to help and asking for our plans.

You have some idea of our approach from our earlier post below this. Basically we wish to work for the long term. Being close to the affected people and also being aware of the donor resources, we realise that all the relief money should be used to buy the goods required to put the fishermen to work the seas again. There are three essential things that a fisherman needs: nets, engines and boats. The first two can be made anywhere in the world and shipped to India, but for the needed boats, existing building capacity will take 18 months to even begin cope with demand. These boats are India's east coast specific and cannot be built anywhere in the world and shipped.

Our nearly-final strategy is a modification of the old saying, "give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats forever"; to that hackneyed statement, we add, "..provided there are boats and stuff, he can practice the wise teachings on".

Jan 01, 2005: Changing needs of a disaster area» go Top

Relief work has taught ECCO some lessons.

--The work that needs to be done is not cast in stone. The need of this hour is dead the next, replaced by a new need. First day it was food and a kitchen and gathering people together. The next day it was counseling against fear, coping with rumours. And the next, one of managing the stampede of zealous distributors of relief goodies.
--Much of the work that is needed does not cost money but time and labour. Running around to find missing persons, rescuing people, counseling the traumatised, showing solidarity with the homeless, speaking out their requirements, guiding potential donors, showing that you care are all some of the work done by ECCO members that won't show up in the donor list
--Evaluating promises made and filling in the breech when it doesn't come through, being alive to where resources must go are possible only if relief workers keep an open mind.
Having learnt these lessons, ECCO is certain about the following:
--enough funds are in flow and much of the relief work will get done and rehabilitation too.
--despite that, small gaps will remain after about 3 months or so when the relief work finally winds up

Bearing that in mind ECCO's strategy is to keep a narrow focus on the work that needs to be done at K K Kuppam hamlet in Muttukkadu. This is realism because despite their enthusiasm ECCO members have jobs to keep and families to run. Nevertheless, we found friends from afar offering huge sums of money. We have learnt now to tell them to direct them to more deserving places

Our village is close to Chennai city and enjoys high visibility. ECCO is confident its every requirement will be met. So what are we going to do with the funds we have and are in the pipeline. We ask potential donors to only pledge for an action plan that is yet to emerge. ECCO is not sure what that plan will be, but is sure that something will remain to be done in the end with no one but us to do it. So money is welcome if you share our open strategy.

Foregoing are the reasons why we have not given away the rations we have collected and spent barely any money out of the considerable amount we have collected. The relief engine is running full-bore but will eventually splutter and die. And that is when ECCO plans to move in. If relief is meant, replacing lost property, there would be no need it seems for ECCO: there's enough money coming. But if we mean relief should uplift the fishing community, there are things we can do. What are the tentative plans? ECCO members are informally discussing the following with open minds.

Action Plan #1: Release rations if there is a gap between end of relief supplies and start of earning streams.
Action Plan #2: Fibre Reinforced Plastics [FRP] repair and training workshop. This will bring in new skills and jobs and won't cost much to set up.
Action Plan#3: Buy a new FRP boat, fully outfit it [Rs 100,000 in all] and hand it over to a self-help group to rent out, the rentals accumulating as capital for further investments.
Action Plan#4: Investigate setting up a knowledge kiosk in consultation with successful operators already familiar with it. There are reports of villages having been saved by early alerts. Are there auto-alarm systems connected to disaster alert system? Are there simple solutions?
Action Plan#5: It is likely K K Kuppam villagers will get homesteads allotted in higher, safer place. There may be an opportunity to educate them on the potential of growing biodiesel trees around their homes as a long-term strategy. There had been initial conversations on the subject before Boxing Day,04. Funds and lack of land were problems. Out of the present crisis, an opportunity to restart this project may arise. It will entail taking a group to a demo centre in Bangalore to motivate them, get selectively bred trees for each of the 300 homesteads, getting a nursery going and so on. This is a long term [5 years], sustained activity and has to be realistically costed.
Action Plan#6: If villagers are going to build on new land, there may be need for sanitation and community spaces.
Action Plan#7: Finally our belief that replacement funds for essentials will definitely flow may be belied, and we may just spend the money with us to buy the nets and crafts we can.
We ask potential donors to understand our strategy before they commit their funds.

The ECCO Programme
A post Tsunami Review: March, 2006

Since that fateful Tsunami day in Dec, 04, much has happened. The terror of that day was followed by an outpouring of grief and assistance on a scale never before seen.

Motivated by support from all of you we at ECCO have responded on a scale we had not imagined. Close to Rs.45 lakhs was raised and spent. How that money was used is reported in other section of this site. Here is a quick review of life in Tsunami hit villages.

All villages are back at fishing. But there is a crucial change which alas might remain for another generation: the fishermen and their family don't trust the sea any more. This is different from being afraid.

Far too many replacement assets -boats, engines, nets- have arrived at all villages. Some of these gear is idling and may waste away.

The experience has also knocked off a lot of self-reliance that fishermen used to display. The windfall relief has made them expect more. Now that world's compassion has turned to other disasters, many fisherfolk are nostalgic for the days when assistance poured in.

They have been subjected to strange social forces in the guise of relief work. Notable among this is evangelism by overseas money. There has been much competetive philanthropy that quite muddied the issue.

Kari kattu Kuppam, the home village of ECCO is today without proper housing. Villagers who deserted their centuries old habitat, still resude in huts, waiting and hoping for the government of allot them land at a safe place.

That in brief is the scene today.

CatFree villages growing Bio-Fuels

Cats [catamarans] have served fishermen well for centuries, but compared with FRP [Fibre Reinforced Plastic] boats [pic below] they use third more fuel, are half as fast, land a fifth of the catch, keep the fishermen always drenched [-so making them want to hasten home with what little they catch] and of course, begin life with trees having to be felled to build them.

If ECCO goes some distance in making fishing villages CatFree, there would be an increased number of diesel engines. So why not get villages to plant Pongamia Pinnata trees, whose seeds yield an oil that is a diesel-equivalent?

That is our big idea.


Reddi Kuppam» go Top

Feb 17,'05:
A six member delegation of village leaders from ReddiKuppam came formally to meet D V Sridharan, President of ECCO at his farm house. They presented an appeal seeking ECCO's help in putting their fishermen back to sea. Leaders of kkKuppam were also present on the occasion.

rKuppam is about 3km north of kkKuppam and is a slightly larger settlement of about 1600 souls. There were 52 FRP boats and 170 catamarans. The tsunami's effect on the village was also lesser. No lives were lost nor too many houses destroyed. Much of their crafts and nets have however been destroyed. Rotary International came quickly to their help and repaired 47 of the FRP boats. They have not received any donations of new boats. ECCO with its policy of making villages CatFree is proposing to donate its boats to cat owners whose crafts have been destroyed.

rKuppam is also notable for a young team working under Dr Supraja Dharini, an environmentalist. They have been protecting sea turtles during the hatching season. ECCO hopes to tap this enthusiasm for a bio-fuel plantation programme to be worked out at later, when fishermen have resumed operations.

K K Kuppam» go Top

Jan 09,'05:
At a meeting [pic below] between ECCO and representatives of Muttukkadu community leaders, a long-term relief plan was agreed upon and will commence implementation at once. Read the full report in the main column alongside.

In brief,
--for every Rs.70,000 raised by ECCO, a boat [pic above] will be built and handed over to the Fishermen Co-Operative.
--Each of the donor making up the Rs.70,000 will be named on the hull. The boats will be named ECCO-1, 2, 3, 4 etc
--An agreement will be entered into between the co-operative and ECCO to ensure proper use and care of boats

Realising its limitations in manpower, time, understanding of local communities and special skills required, ECCO will restrict its relief work to just K K Kuppam and just this well-defined livelihoods programme.

A note on east coast boats» go Top

The ancient native craft of the east coast of India, is the 'kattumaram', [a Tamil word meaning 'bound logs'] from which is derived the English word 'catamaran'. These are unsinkable and their design has evolved over the centuries. They can be landed on the shallow beaches and so fishing communities sprung up even where there were no harbours and jetties.

Owing to rising environmental awareness, alternatives for the catamaran were being sought. What has emerged is the current day fibre reinforced plastic [frp] boat, commonly referred to as the 'fibre boat'. Their hull design has gone through several iterations and today the popular size is 27' with a beam of 6'. It is a double-bottomed boat with designed-in stiffeners. Floatation foam will give it high safety but poor fishermen often try to save the Rs.8,000 that this feature costs and take a chance with their safety. The boats are powered by diesel engines of 7.5 to 10 horse-power fitted with a 10' 'long-tail' propeller shaft. These boats can employ between 3 and 5 fishermen. They are daily trippers that can catch most species depending on the net and gear they use. Fishermen have developed maintenance skills in engine repairs and frp patching. In other words the fibre boat is well integrated with east coast fishing.

They are built using two moulds. Two parts are pasted together with resin to form a double bottomed hull. They are completely hand-made in literally thatched cottage workshops. A boat can be turned out in a week. There are about 30 to 50 builders, all in the unorganised sector with a capacity of about 50 boats per year, which totals to 2,500 per year. As fishermen have perennially been short of funds, the boat builders have languished in debt. The government runs various assistance schemes with loans, subsidies etc but these are riddled with holes and slowness. If an attempt is now made to help fishermen upgrade from catamarans to fibre boats -using the tsunami's destruction as an opportunity- a total of 45,000 crafts would be needed. Click to read an informative report here.

That's the daunting task that faces India but the point seems to have been missed by most relief initiatives. There seems to be a leisurely approach without realising that if the crafts don't come in, the state has to handle starving fishermen. ECCO sensed the emerging chaos quite early and at one point Navaz and DV even wondered if ECCO had to get into boat-building directly. We both undertook extensive visits to several boat yards and realised that if we acted quickly, we can beat the queues that are bound to form. DV with his Tamil and engineering knowledge also interacted with several fishermen and community leaders to assess their honest views.

The final plan that has emerged with the selection of a local builder is a result of this 3 week long involvement in relief work. Helped not a little by proximate living with the fishing community.