CHENNAI: Beach-facing luxury bungalows, which once offered an enviable view of the sandy beaches of Muttukadu in Chennai, are now abandoned and on the verge of collapse. Part of an unauthorised project to develop the beachfront by rich individuals, they now have the waves breaching the compound walls. High tides reach way inside the residential complex, thus destroying smaller structures such as servant quarters.Poetic as it is for these structures, which were built in violation of environment laws, the devastation witnessed at Muttukadu is unprecedented and rapid enough to raise an alarm in Chennai, just 30 km away. In less than a year, about 400 metres of the beach has vanished. The situation worsens each passing day, taking a toll on the local ecosystem.
All this, experts say, is because of the ill-conceived, unauthorised coastal engineering project undertaken by the State Fisheries Department, to construct a ‘groyne field’ after fishermen in neighbouring Kovalam village complained of sea erosion.Experts say this changed geodynamics and natural sediment movement accelerating sea erosion from a natural phenomenon to a rapidly-unfolding man-made disaster that has affected about 3 km beach on the northern side of the groynes towards Chennai.
Muttukadu is highly eco-sensitive, with one of the largest brackish-water lagoons bisecting ECR and the sea. The Central Institute of Brackish Water Aquaculture runs an experimental station, where `200 crore worth research work is underway. If erosion continues at this pace, the sea will swallow the entire lagoon. Groynes cause a sand build-up at the Muttukadu-Kovalam bar mouth, where Buckingham Canal drains water into the sea. Tonnes of sand accumulates between the groynes, blocking the mouth. In the absence of periodic dredging, the water is now just knee-deep.