CHENNAI: In a significant development, the State government got the preliminary clearance from Union Environment Ministry to build training walls and groynes near Pulicat bar mouth to keep it open throughout the year for the benefit of thousands of traditional fishermen.
The project has been a long-pending demand of over 35,000 fisherfolks inhabiting 60 villages in both Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The State Fisheries department intends to permanently stabilise the Pulicat bar mouth by putting up these hard structures.
GS Sameeran, Director of Fisheries, told Express that under the project, two training walls measuring 160 metres and 150 metres would be built on either side of the bar mouth. Besides, two short groynes of 50 metres in length will be constructed on the northern side to minimise the resultant sea erosion.
Explaining the necessity of the project, the official said that due to sediment transport rates, the location of the bar mouth to the lake often migrates, sometime also closes putting fishermen to severe hardship. “Fishermen are facing difficulties in going to the sea from Pulicat for fishing activity. Once the project is completed, the fishermen can navigate into the Bay of Bengal throughout the year,” Sameeran said.
Frequent exchange of seawater and freshwater will create a better environment for the growth of prawns, mullets, green crabs, jellyfish and finfish etc. “It helps the fishing activities of the Pulicat lake-dependent fishermen. It will help maintain the bio-diversity of the lake. The bio-diversity of the lake also helps attract north-east monsoon rain clouds from October to December,” he said.
Welcoming the development, P Kadrivan, fourth-generation traditional fisherman from Andikuppam, who depends on the Pulicat lake for his livelihood, said that currently the Pulicat bar mouth, which facilitated a constant inflow of seawater during high tide thereby aiding fisheries growth, was now choked. “Prawn and mullet fish are the major species found, but their numbers have drastically depleted. If the bar mouth is kept open round the year, it will usher in economic prosperity.”
Looking beyond the merits, the environmentalists fear the training walls and groynes will destabilise the coast causing irreversible damage. Ecologist D Narasimhan, who has done research on Pulicat, said laying groynes or training walls was not advisable; rather the government can help the fishermen and keep the mouth open through periodical dredging. A senior scientist with the Central Marine Research Institute (CMRI) said the government’s intentions may be noble, but it should not risk ‘overdoing’ things that may cause an irreparable damage to a fragile Pulicat ecosystem.
Last year, the Environment Ministry objected the project, saying it would alter the entire flow regime of the Pulicat lake and the ecological consequence of opening the mouth leading to massive sea water ingression may change the characteristics of the lake.
The Pulicat lake mouth is silted and reduced in width and depth.
The bar-mouth is completely choked making it difficult for fishing vessels to enter the sea.
Fishemen up in arms against government for not carrying out periodic dredging.
Fish stock has depleted considerably in recent years.
Overexploitation fisheries resources is another problem.
Build training walls on either side of the bar mouth to keep it open round the year.
Deepen it by 3 metres to allow free flow of fishing vessels.
Northern wall will be of 160 metres and southern wall of 150 metres.
Bar mouth opening will be enhanced to 300 metres from current 40 metres.
Having 300 metres of bar mouth open in all seasons will bring excessive amount of seawater into the lake, which may cause more harm than good.
Natural sand-drift movement likely to be affected.
Detailed EIA study is missing
Environment Ministry said unscientific interventions may have severe impacts on the lagoon ecology.
It is proposed to dredge the channel area from lake to sea bar mouth to a depth of 3 metres and quantity of dredging is 113250 cubic metres.
Cost of the project Rs 27 crore
The Environment Ministry had noted that the Pulicat lake was a nationally and internationally important wetland and any unscientific interventions may have severe impacts on the lagoon ecology.