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Intrepid Women Seaweed Divers Of India Face Risks Yet Persist

Pamban, where the women collected seaweed that February morning, is a teardrop-shaped island known for its rich marine ecosystem. Anushree Bhatter for NPR. The women who have gathered to collect seaweed in the shallow reefs tie white gunny sacks around their hips and plunge into the waters.

S. Mahendran, a Forest Range officer in the nearby town of Mandapam who is familiar with the women seaweed divers, says there's a reason these restrictions existed. Since the seaweed grows so close to the islands, that's a thin line and not always possible, the women say.

So fishing income earned by the men is squandered - putting pressure on the women to dive for more seaweed to make up for a husband's lost income. So while the jury is out on seaweed cultivation, the army of seaweed collectors have seen changes for the better.

A hundred women seaweed divers from Chinna Palam should receive ID cards later this month - Indian bureaucracy is blamed for the delays.

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