Groynes at Kovalam May Eat Into Chennai's Beach Space

Published: 02nd April 2016 06:15 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd April 2016 06:15 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI:  In a blatant violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules, the State Fisheries Department has dumped large boulders to construct groynes into the sea at Kovalam. While the department on Friday halted the construction, which even includes a road across the Kovalam river mouth to facilitate lorry movement, experts fear that building of the groynes at Kovalam would mean erosion of the Chennai city’s beaches, which lie north of it, in the long run.

The illegal construction, which was brought to light by local activists on Friday, had drastically altered the coastline at Kovalam by dumping large boulders to construct groynes into the sea without obtaining the mandatory clearances. This action, activist say, done without proper scientific thinking, would prove extremely counterproductive for people of Chennai in the long-run as the city beaches may witness rise in sea erosion, experts point out.

According to CRZ Notification 2011, the beach area in which a row of groynes are proposed, for which work has already commenced, falls under CRZ IV (waterbody) and CRZ I (intertidal zone), wherein construction activity of any kind is strictly prohibited without obtaining prior CRZ clearance from the Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA). Ironically, Dr Beela Rajesh, Commissioner of Fisheries, is also a member of the coastal zone management authority.

After being tipped off about the illegal activity, members of Coastal Resource Centre, an NGO working for environment protection, visited the spot on Friday and found that three groynes, approximately 800 metres long and 3 metres wide, have already been erected perpendicular to the coast. One of the groynes has been constructed on the northern side of the fishermen’s cove, another one has come up on the southern side. Construction of the third one further south was ongoing.

Even a road was laid illegally  using bituminous waste and gravel on the beach and across the Kovalam river mouth to facilitate the movement of lorries carrying rocks to sites earmarked for more groynes. The policy note of the Fisheries Department 2015-16 says that due to severe erosion in the coastline of Kovalam village, short groynes are proposed as anti-sea erosion measures based on the surveys and studies by IIT, Madras. Administration sanction was also accorded by the State government for construction of fish landing centre at Kovalam. The total cost of the project was estimated at `18.30 crore, of which `5 crore is funded by NABARD.

Dr H Malleshappa, member secretary, TNSCZMA, confirmed to Express that the Fisheries Department hadn’t applied for CRZ clearance so far. “I was informed about raw materials being moved into Kovalam for construction of groynes on Thursday by the Fisheries Department and immediately I wrote to the Kancheepuram Collector R Gajalakshmi, who is the chairman of Kancheepuram district coastal zone management committee and the District Environmental Engineer of the TNPCB to initiate necessary action. The officers have informed me that the Fisheries Department has stopped all the work,” he said.

When contacted, a senior Fisheries official acknowledged that the work was initiated without getting the CRZ clearance and now the work has been halted. The official said the work would resume after getting the clearance.

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