THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the Northeast Monsoon and next cyclone season fast approaching, the coastal belt in the capital continues to be under strong sea erosion threat. Almost every project planned by the government to address the coastal erosion remains on paper, putting hundreds of fisherman families under threat.
The project to construct a 700-metre-long breakwater to protect the shoreline from Poonthura to Valiyathura — one of the worst-hit areas in the capital, continues to drag on. Though the state government announces huge financial packages to protect and develop the coastal belt which is deteriorating year after year because of the unpredictable weather conditions, cyclones and unscientific constructions, the funds remain unutilised because of lack of projects. This year too, the state government has announced a whopping Rs 11,000-crore package to mitigate coastal distress and ensure the protection of the shoreline.
More than 28 per cent of the entire fishermen community in the state is from Thiruvananthapuram. Hundreds of families have lost their homes and continue to live in relief camps and every year more families are getting displaced. The entire coastal belt is severely battered by heavy sea erosion making it impossible for the fishermen even to venture into the sea.
Fisherman forced to go to Vizhinjam
Debyans S, a fisherman hailing from Poonthura, said the fishermen from the area are forced to go to Vizhinjam for fishing as it’s impossible to venture into the sea at Poonthura because of severe sea erosion. “This is one of the worst-affected areas and everyday we travel to Vizhinjam for fishing. If the project is implemented, we can do it here itself and save money which is being spent on travelling,” says Debyans. The Poonthura breakwater project has faced a major setback with IIT Madras raising concern about the quality of the material being used for its construction. The project has suffered huge delays because of the pandemic and tender-related issues.
The offshore breakwater is planned 120 metres away from Poonthura coast. There will be five small breakwaters of 100 metres in length lined up at a depth of six metres in the sea. The geocomposite tubes, filled with sand, is expected to weaken the waves and also help beach formation. The pilot project, which is estimated to cost around Rs 18 crore, is being implemented with the technical support of the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), which carried out a model study for the project.
An official of Kerala State Coastal Area Development Corporation (KSCADC), the agency implementing the project, said the IIT hasn’t approved the material and more samples would be tested to get the approval. “It took almost two months to get the quality check report from IIT Madras and we have decided to approach other internationally accredited agencies to check more samples to avoid further delay,” said the official.
They cannot go ahead with the project without getting the quality approval of the material used for the project. “The contractor would start the work immediately once we get the clearance and would be completed in no time,” the official added.
Fishing harbour remains on paper
General convenor of Valiyathura Thuramugha Samrakshana Vikasana Samithi Melvin Vinod said several projects being planned remain on paper, including the mini-fishing harbour project. The Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority had granted clearance for the fishing harbour project back in 2014. “As per the environmental impact study, the fishing harbour would have helped mitigate sea erosion along the coast. The project had proposed a groyne field consisting of three T-groynes on the northern side of the harbour to combat sea erosion.
This would have helped avoid the sea erosion at Poonthura, Valiyathura and Shankhumukham,” said Vinod. Former Valiyathura councillor Tony Oliver said hundreds of families are on the verge of displacement. “The sea has turned unpredictable like the weather conditions. The families are getting displaced after every cyclone and monsoon. Hundreds of families have lost their homes and a large majority are yet to get houses promised by the state government. More families will lose homes if the government fails to protect the coast,” said Oliver.
Fisherman families are battered by sea erosion and hundreds of them have already been displaced
The others are worried as Northeast Monsoon and cyclone season approaches