Groynes to help keep Chennai's Pulicat lake mouth open
As per the proposal, two training walls, measuring 160 metres and 150 metres, will be built on either side of the bar mouth.
CHENNAI: Coming as a huge relief for thousands of fishermen from Pulicat, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has given its consent to build groynes at the bar mouth of the lake to keep it permanently open. The NBWL meeting was held in New Delhi on November 17 and an official, who took part in it, told TNIE that the project has received clearance.
The project aims to stabilise the Pulicat bar mouth to help give fishermen continuous access to vessels to do traditional fishing in all seasons. “Since the project is located at Pulicat village and falls within Pulicat bird sanctuary, it attracts NBWL clearance,” said an official from the state fisheries department. The project has been a long-pending demand of over 35,000 fisher folk living in 60 villages in both Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
As per the proposal, two training walls, measuring 160 metres and 150 metres, will 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 fisheries department official said due to sediment transport rate, the location of the bar mouth to the lake often migrates, sometimes also closes, putting fishermen in severe hardship. “Fishermen face difficulty in going to the sea from Pulicat for fishing. Once the project is completed, the fishermen can navigate into Bay of Bengal throughout the year,” he said and added the work would commence post-northeast monsoon.
P Ethiraj, president, Tiruvallur District Traditional United Fishermen Association and D Durai Mahendran, state President, Tamil Nadu Fishermen Association, said the project once completed would be a saviour. “For instance, for the past 20 days, the bar mouth got completely closed. We were unable to go fishing, resulting in loss of livelihood. There are about 1,300 registered fishing boats in Pulicat. The fisheries department promised to get `22 lakh from the government for temporary dredging of bar mouth. Anticipating the funds, we ourselves deployed heavy machinery to open the mouth at our cost,” Ethiraj said.
To a query, whether opening of mouth would have long-term impact on Pulicat lake, a senior forest official told TNIE there would not be much adverse impact. “In fact, for the survival of Pulicat lake and its biodiversity, there should be constant exchange of seawater and freshwater. If the mouth closes even for a few months, the fish and prawn production will take a beating which might result in a drop in migratory bird congregations.”
In 2018, the environment ministry had objected to 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 seawater ingression may change the characteristics of the lake. The ministry noted Pulicat lake is a national as well as internationally important wetland (identified as an Important Bird Area by Bombay Natural History Society and BirdLife International) hosting large congregations of bird and any unscientific intervention may have severe impacts on the lagoon ecology. However, authorities said a detailed environment impact assessment study was conducted and the project was conceived after weighing both pros and cons.
- 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 the government for not carrying out periodic dredging.
- Fish stock has depleted considerably in recent years.
- Over exploitation of fisheries resources is another problem.