THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The PWD project to restore the battered Airport Road at Shankhumukham has yet again come under the scanner as the efforts to construct a diaphragm wall failed miserably owing to heavy sea erosion and rough waves. According to experts, the project is unscientific and the government should rethink and come up with a more sustainable and scientific plan
Heavy sea erosion and rough waves are derailing the efforts of the PWD to construct a diaphragm wall to protect the Airport Road and facilitate its restoration work, which was launched in October last year. The recent cyclone and rough sea condition have once again exposed the impracticality of the project being pitched by the government as a solution to protect the beach and the road.
According to experts, it was unscientific to launch a road restoration project without a proper beach protection plan. The Uralungal Labour Contract Co-operative Society Ltd (ULCCS), the agency roped in by the PWD to implement the road restoration work, faced a loss to the tune of `2 crore as rough waves and sea erosion triggered by the recent cyclone Tauktae literally washed away the entire restored area.
“We have lost the entire work. As per the initial assessment, Rs 1.25 crore worth of loss has been recorded at the project site and several other associated infrastructure developed by us have also been destroyed. In total, nearly `2 crore has been lost,” said an official associated with the project. Even the agency executing the project was initially apprehensive about implementing the project as Shankhumukham beach had been witnessing sea erosion throughout the year.
‘Protect beaches first’
According to architect G Shankar, unsustainable development activities along the coastline are aggravating the destruction of beaches. “There needs to be a comprehensive environment impact study along the coastline in Thiruvananthapuram. The government machinery has failed terribly in saving our beaches, which are the livelihood for thousands of people. In the past seven to eight years, our coastline has witnessed visible changes and we are losing beaches. All investments made by the authorities to set up more infrastructure have been taken away by the sea. The state government should be giving more thrust to save the beaches. Restoration of the Airport Road can wait. The environmental impact needs to be looked into,” said Shankar.
Despite adverse weather ruining the project, the state government has decided to go ahead with the diaphragm wall project. Ever since the work launch, the project has suffered huge losses, calling for a comprehensive study and a rethinking by the government. The state government had granted `6 crore for the project.
According to experts, there needs to be a comprehensive study and detailed analysis on the sea erosion happening at Shankhumukham before launching interim and temporary interventions. K V Thomas, a former scientist with the National Centre for Earth Science Studies (NCESS), said protection of beaches should be the priority. “There needs to be a study and a shoreline management plan to protect the beach from Kovalam to Muthalapozhi,” said Thomas.
IRRIGATION DEPT’S J16-CR PROJECT SCRAPPED BY LAST GOVT
The irrigation department had come up with a Rs 16-crore protection plan for Shankhumukham beach, but the previous government scrapped the project and entrusted PWD with the project. “We had prepared a comprehensive project to protect the beach. But the government was not interested in executing the project and roped in PWD,” said an official. “Our plan was to restore the beach by constructing a protection wall in sync with tourism activities,” an irrigation department official said.
‘Protect airport road’
Former managing director of Thiruvananthapuram Road Development Corporation Ltd (TRDCL) Anil Kumar Pandala said the diaphragm wall project was launched without proper study. “TRDCL, while executing the project, had informed the government of the need for a proper retaining wall for protecting the road from natural calamities. We warned the authorities back in 2005. During Ockhi, the gabion wall constructed by us to protect the road was washed away by the sea. Since then, we had written several times to the authorities to make effective interventions to protect the road. But nothing happened. In 2018, rough waves took away a portion of the road.
But till today, no solid efforts have come from the authorities to protect the road,” said Pandala. Currently, the sea has advanced further and rough waves have almost reached the compound wall of the airport drawing urgent attention of the authorities and the newly sworn-in government. According to experts, it was foolish to launch the road restoration project without a proper study of the beach and interventions to protect it. With monsoon almost here, it would be impossible for the authorities to undertake any work to protect the beach or the road.
STOP WASTING MONEY, SAY CITIZENS
General secretary of theConfederation of Residents’ Association M Shashidharan Nair said the state government is wasting taxpayers’ money by investing in unscientific infrastructure projects. “They are spending crores to protect the beach and setting up infrastructure for tourists. Every monsoon, the sea advances and destroys everything. They keep on redoing and renovating, wasting more money,” said Sashidharan Nair. Shankhumukham ward councillor Serafin F said the government should give priority for rehabilitating fishermen’s families. “Other infrastructure projects can wait,” said Serafin.