THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The pilot 700-metre-long breakwater project from Poonthura to Shankhumukham stalled because of Covid. The material was originally planned to be brought from China, but with imports from the neighbouring country banned, agency entrusted with the work is now trying to bring it from Thailand or Malaysia .Since the structure has to be constructed in open sea, work can start only after monsoon now, say officials
Sea erosion is turning catastrophic for a large section of the people living along the shoreline across Kerala, but the changing governments have failed to protect these thickly populated areas scientifically despite the enormous damage inflicted already. The much-hyped offshore breakwater project initiated by the state government at Poonthura in Thiruvananthapuram -- one of the badly-hit districts -- during its previous term remains a nonstarter despite rough sea, monsoon and cyclones displacing families and swallowing properties.
Ever since Ockhi, cyclonic storms are becoming a regular affair and the state is ill-prepared to handle such climatic events. In the past three to four years, the coastal areas have been witnessing immense damage owing to coastal erosion and the departments are still ill-prepared to reduce the impact of natural disasters due to lack of experience.
It has been nearly two years since the state government came up with the offshore breakwater project on a pilot basis at Poonthura as an intervention to prevent sea erosion. The Kerala State Coastal Area Development Corporation (KSCADC), the SPV entrusted with the project, signed an agreement with an agency already but owing to pandemic-related hurdles, the project is progressing at a snails’ pace.
The state government has earmarked `19 crore for the project, which is being implemented with the technical support of the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) that carried out a model study for the project.
“We couldn’t begin the project as planned owing to the pandemic. Also, we got the final nod from the government very recently. This is the first offshore breakwater project and it would be constructed 125 metres into the sea. It’s impossible to carry out the construction during monsoon or rough sea conditions. Hence, we have to wait longer as the monsoon is already here. We hope to begin the work by August,” said a senior official associated with the project.
The plan is to construct a 700-metre-long breakwater extending along Poonthura-Valiyathura- Beemapally-Shankhumukham. “The material for the construction was planned to be sourced from China. The samples had already arrived. These are being studied by IIT Madras. It would take another week to complete the study. With imports from China stalled, the agency would be sourcing the material from Thailand or Malaysia,” said the official.
Mumbai-based DVP GCC Joint Ventures is the agency executing the pilot project at Poonthura.
The plan is to construct an offshore breakwater using geotubes of 5m diameter along the 700-metre-long coastline. “The work has to be done in the open sea and requires heavy machinery which would be brought by the agency soon. The offshore project undertaken at Tamil Nadu has been a huge success,” said an official. The plan is to complete the project within six months.
“Once the work takes off, the project would be completed within six months. NIOT would be continuously monitoring and studying the impact of this project. We will be able to replicate it in other locations across the state but location-specific study has to be undertaken to ensure the project is feasible,” the official added. The state government had allocated `150 crore for executing offshore breakwater projects in the state. However, no structure has come up on the ground. The new LDF government has announced a whopping `5,000 crore for shore protection.