BERHAMPUR: Ahead of monsoon season, fear of beach erosion has gripped fishermen of coastal villages in Ganjam district. As many as 28 villages are located along 60-km coast in the district with at least seven villages facing the threat from the Bay of Bengal due to rapid beach erosion.
The villages of Podampeta, Gokhorokuda, Arjeepalli and Purunabandha in Ganjam block and Patisunapur, Anantaraipur, Rameyapatana and Katuru in Chikiti block are affected most by the erosion. According to social worker Mangaraj Panda, the distance between sea and Podampeta has been reduced from two km to a few metres now.
In 2010, the sea almost touched the village. After the village was hit by coastal erosion, the district administration shifted houses to a safer place, but some houses exist in the old village. The beach was full of casurina, cashew nut and kewra plants which have almost vanished, he added.Rabindra Sahu, a villager of Gokhorokuda which is famous for nesting of Olive Ridley sea turtles, said sea erosion used to occur during July and August. Sea again starts deposition process from September and width of the coastline gets restored by December when Olive Ridleys visit the beach for nesting.
Since 2007, the rate of deposition by the sea has decreased and the six-km stretch of beach is now reduced to around two km. “We are living in fear as the sea water is creeping closer to our village,” he added.
Purunabandha, another village close to the sea, is also prone to erosion and the villagers blame it on construction of wave breakers of Gopalpur port a few years ago. “We are living in constant fear as sea water is approaching our village. No remedial measures have been taken by the Government so far,” said a villager of Arjeepalli.
However, port authorities claimed that the construction of wave breakers has nothing to do with the erosion and a technical team which visited the area also stated the same in their report.Similarly during the last five years, the sea has eroded about 150 metres of the beach and swallowed 12 houses in Rameyapatana.
Sarpanch of Katuru panchayat Jagabandhu Behera said, “Five villages of the panchayat are facing erosion threat and we are demanding a proper geomorphologic study of the sea erosion phenomenon, but to no avail.” He also demanded to construct guard wall to protect the beach from erosion.
According to Prof Kali Sahu of Marine Science department in Berhampur University, usually Ganjam coast receives its sand deposits due to south-north wind, but due to the closure of the confluence of Rushikulya and Bahuda rivers, drifting of sand by the rivers has almost stopped. Rampant deforestation in coastal areas has also resulted in erosion, he added.