Growing tensions between Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen are just one signal of a looming conflict over the region’s depleted waters.
THALVUPADU, Sri Lanka — Stanley Cruz, a fisher in this beachside village on the island of Mannar off Sri Lanka’s northwestern coast, stands with his bare feet in the sand, holding up a green net between his hands.
“This is the kind of net, you see. Last week, we lost many hundreds of these. Twelve of us fishers, when we went out to get them in the morning they were gone,” he says.
He points toward the waters behind him: the Palk Strait, a narrow body of water separating Sri Lanka from the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Cruz was out the night before, laying his nets in the sea, just like thousands of other fishers from both sides of the strait. But when he went to get them in the morning, they were gone.
“It keeps happening over and over,” says Mary Subramali, an elderly woman who cleans and sorts the incoming fish. “The trawlers come to take our fish and cut our nets, destroying them with their propellers. My son just lost his for the second time.”