Fisheries and livelihoods in Tungabhadra basin: Current status and future possibilities – A working paper by Institute for Social and Economic Change

Security of tenure is an important issue and fishermen are concerned about the rights to access and the use of common waters, the study says.

This study by Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) aims at understanding the livelihood patterns of fishermen within the Tungabhadra sub basin, a tributary of river Krishna located in peninsular India. Lack of integrated approach in development initiatives and water management plans warrants the need for Integrated Water Resource Management to support livelihoods. The study focuses on fisheries as a source of livelihood, current status and institutional support available, people dependant on it, development initiatives and suggestions for improvements.

The study addresses the following research questions so as to analyze fisheries as a means of livelihood in the Tungabhadra sub basin and how it can support marginal communities and women -

  • What opportunities do fisheries provide for rural fisher folk and women in its current form and what are the future possibilities?
  • How do factors related to current water management and institutional conditions influence the livelihood options of the marginal communities?

The overall objective is to examine whether water resources management in the Tungabhadra sub-basin recognizes fisheries as a viable option in improving the livelihoods and reducing poverty and if so, the desired changes and the role/future for the marginal communities and women in the fisheries sector in the basin.

The report begins with an overview of the status of fisheries followed by methodology, results based on the primary survey and focus group discussions, covering fishing sources, rights, methods, and marketing. Finally, the report provides a brief analysis of fishermen livelihoods and their problems in addition to development of fisheries in Tungabhadra sub-basin followed by policy inputs for improvement of livelihoods.

The study shows that fisheries in Tungabhadra sub-basin support the livelihoods of a significant proportion of the population. However, the State Water Policy and water management plans do not consider fisheries   as a priority, though it does mention that water should be ensured for various sectors. The main focus in Tungabhadra sub-basin is on agriculture and managing water to meet the needs of irrigation and domestic drinking water. Development initiatives by the Department of Fisheries are not integrated with the water management plans or other development activities of The Water Resources Department or the Agriculture Department.

This is evident from the fact that certain parts of the river where fishermen engage in fishing activities become completely dry during late winters; this is because water release is controlled by the water resources department and there is no co-ordination between the two. This definitely shows the importance of IWRM to support fisheries on which a significant percentage of the population are dependent for their livelihoods.

A number of policies and institutions already exist in Tungabhadra sub-basin that can facilitate the entry of poor, women and youth into fisheries. What is needed is an integrated framework within which where the relevant policies, departments and programs can be pulled together for facilitating the access to the poor.

Various measures can be initiated at the local level, like improving the water bodies, issuing licenses only to small-scale and traditional fishermen, developing local co-operative insurance schemes to include poor, legitimizing community networks, increasing training programs etc. Security of tenure is an important issue and fishermen are concerned about the rights to access and the use of common waters. The complexities of the poor are diverse that need to be addressed through a holistic approach with regard to future fisheries development programs.

Download the report here -

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