UT government's indifference costs Pondy beach dear
By Debjani Dutta | Published: 25th November 2013 07:42 AM |
Old-timers in this sleepy coastal town of Puducherry have a bitter stock of stories elaborating the indifference of successive governments that led to the sea gobbling up the once massive beaches that adorned the town, even as man-made structures wreaked havoc on the shores.
This indifference was again witnessed at the National Green Tribunal last week, when the Puducherry government was pulled up by the bench for trying to mislead it. Despite the comprehensive study report of the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), advising the government to initiate several soft-measures to deal with the erosion of its shores, the government failed to forward the same to the Centre with plans seeking funds.
Prior to NIOT report, Consulting Engineering Services (CES), a Delhi-based firm, IIT-Madras, DHI, Institute of Ocean Management (IOM) of Anna University, Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS), Pune and several NGOs, had acknowledged that the erosion of Pondicherry coast and adjoining areas was due to the deficit in sediment supply to northern coastal stretch caused by the construction of a harbour in the late 1980s.
As the movement of sand from the south to the north of the harbour was blocked by massive breakwaters, CWPRS had advised the government to dredge 4 lakh cubic metres sand annually from the mouth of the harbour and deposit in on the northside. However, this was never implemented.
Later, as protests began to escalate over the issue, the government began constructing a seawall between 2000 and 2003 and two groynes at Kuruchikuppam, which led to formation of a small stretch of beach used by fishermen for docking boats.
Experts say that arbitrary building of seawalls and groynes resulted in the problem getting transferred to the neighbouring villages in Tamil Nadu, leading to a confrontation between the two governments. However, an undeterred Puducherry government went ahead with the plan, which was eventually halted after the intervention of the courts.
But again in 2010, the government, without waiting for the report on the study it had commissioned from the Anna University on possible soft solutions, went ahead with construction of a 190 metre seawall in Chinna Kalapet. While the seawalls helped assuage the fishermen, who wanted beaches restored for docking boats, such measures forced the TN government to take up similar measures in the neighbouring Villupuram, thereby compounding the erosion issue.
Activists say despite Chief Minister N Rangasamy acknowledging coastal erosion as a major issue in his speech at the South Zone council meeting at Bangalore recently, there has been no proper management plan. “Many consultations were held to assess reasons for erosion and to arrive at remedial measures. In fact, the first such meeting was held at Auroville on November 3, 2007 with government authorities of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry accepting to work jointly to find solutions, but nothing materialised,” says Aurofilio, an activist of NGO PONDYCAN.
While so, the government’s indifference to the effects of erosion was betrayed by the plans for the expansion of the Port with the help of the Ennore Port Trust, which the activists say would create chaos on the already vulnerable coastline.