Making a Splash
Children play in the shallows of the Arabian Sea in Fort Kochi, Kerala. Behind them, the ‘Cheena vala’, or Chinese fishing nets, have stood guard to the city’s harbour for over 600 years, and are one of the town’s most recognisable landmarks.
Found nowhere else in India outside of Kochi (Cochin) and the surrounding area, the Cheena vala are fixed, shore operated lift nets; each structure is around 10 m high and consists of a horizontal net, 20 m or more across, suspended over the sea from a beam that is counter weighted by stones attached to ropes at the other end.
Despite their size, the structures are so finely balanced that they can be operated by just one person, the weight of a man walking along the main beam being sufficient to dip the net into the sea. However, the nets are normally operated by team of up to six fishermen, who take it in turn to raise and lower the nets into the water.