Declare Kattupalli coast as high-erosion zone: Fishermen

Pulicat fishermen flag risk of habitat loss due to sea erosion, claim ports don’t undertake mandatory beach nourishment

Published: 10th July 2021 06:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th July 2021 06:36 AM   |  A+A-

A fisherman jumps off the fishing boat after tying it to a poll at Kasimedu Fishing Harbour.

(For representational purposes) A fisherman jumps off the fishing boat. (Photo | P Jawahar, EPS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: With sea erosion threatening to displace them, Pulicat fishermen demanded that the State government declare Kattupalli coast as a ‘High Erosion Zone’. The tag would prevent mega projects like the one proposed by Adani Ports from using the fragile coastline. Erosion triggered by ports constructed at the southern portion of Kattupalli island is already eating into Korakuppam and Sattankuppam. Sattankuppam has decided to evacuate the entire village. 

As part of their respective environmental-clearance, the ports were required to undertake ‘beach nourishment’ by dredging sand accumulated to the south of their breakwaters and depositing it on the northern side.  While beach nourishment cannot reverse or arrest erosion, it can reduce the rate of erosion. 

“But, owing to a lack of enforcement by Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), not one of the three ports has complied with that condition. As a result, erosion is affecting all fishing villages on the Kattupalli coast,” said R Dhavamani, president of Pulicat Lighthouse Kuppam panchayat, which comprises 15 coastal fishermen villages. As Kattupalli is a narrow sandy barrier island separating the Bay of Bengal from the Pulicat wetlands and lagoon, erosion can breach the thin strip of sand. This will result in the merging of Pulicat lagoon and the bay, destroying the bird Sanctuary.

Dhavamani and other fishermen leaders have submitted a formal representation to Fisheries Minister Anitha Radhakrishnan during his visit to Pulicat on Thursday to inspect sea erosion. Incidentally, the inspecting minister had to reportedly be carried by a fisherman after he refused to wet his shoes in ankle-deep water. Separate representations were also sent to Environment Minister Siva V Meyyanathan and Environment Secretary Supriya Sahu. 

Environmental Activist Nityanand Jayaraman told Express that there are several studies to establish that Kattupalli coast is eroding. The State government should declare Kattupalli coast as a high-erosion zone and insist that existing ports comply with the stipulations in their environmental clearances, he said. 

A 2003 study by Anna University’s Institute for Ocean Management reported a maximum erosion of 40.60 m north of Kattupalli kuppam and a minimum of 11.13 m north of Kalanji village between 1999 and 2001. That is an erosion rate of between 5.6 and 20.3 m/year. A 2006 study by the Ministry of Earth Sciences establishes that “along north coast of Ennore port, the beachfill area is undergoing severe erosion at a rate of 50m per annum. The study finds: “With the construction of Ennore port, 16 km North of Chennai port, another erosion problem has emerged. If no intervention is planned, threat to ecologically sensitive Pulicat Lake is inevitable.” 

In April, Express reported how multiple ports in Chennai have triggered erosion problems in Sriharikota Island. M Srinivasulu Reddy, Controller in Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC-Shar), had confirmed to Express that Sriharikota barrier Island was experiencing a little erosion and requested scientists from Chennai-based National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) to undertake studies. 

A top official of NCCR told Express that initial assessment shows the coastal areas are subjected to erosion due to both natural and anthropogenic activities. 


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