A Chinese delegation called on the mayor of Kochi on Wednesday and expressed keen interest in renovating the Chinese fishing nets in Fort Kochi, one of the most clicked showpieces in the God's Own Country.
The delegation headed by Hao Jia, a senior official of the Chinese embassy in India, has submitted a proposal to mayor Tony Chammany suggesting steps to protect these nets and constructing a pavement along the Fort Kochi beach.
There are reports that Chinese President Xi Jinping may visit Kochi during his trip to India later this year.
"We have received some proposals to protect Chinese nets. We will send them to the central government for its clearance," said the mayor adding the delegation was keen to carry out the renovation before the visit of their president.
One of the oldest fishing techniques, these nets are said to be brought to the country by Portuguese voyagers in the 15th century.
Called 'cheena vala' in local parlance, the cantilevered nets are a big tourist attraction.
A fixed land installation, each net is operated by a team of six fishermen.
Its size, elegant construction and slow rhythm of operation attract many tourists. But with rising maintenance cost and poor catch, now only 20 such nets are remaining in the backwaters of Kochi.
Set up on bamboo and teak poles, these nets are fixed land installations for an unusual form of fishing — shore-operated lift nets. Suspended horizontally over the backwaters and seas, they look like huge hammocks.
Also called dip nets, they don't affect fish hatchlings and considered a safe mode of fishing.
"We really welcome the Chinese initiative. I don't think such big nets, rooted in traditional technique and style, existed anywhere in the world. If the Chinese want to preserve one of the oldest techniques, we should welcome it," said KJ Sohan, former mayor of Kochi and president of Chinese Fishing Net Owners' Association.
He said Chinese help in protecting such 'monuments' would help widen ties between the two neighbours.
The proposal by the Chinese comes at a time when some of the owners are planning to wind up their nets.
"Though nets are most clicked and talked about, there is a grave governmental apathy towards them. No insurance company is willing to insure these nets. Also, they have to be changed twice a year involving big expenses," said Sohan.
Ancient Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi. (HT Photo)