Work on the Chethi Fishing Harbour, near Cherthala here, has come to a standstill following protests by a section of the public over the absence of a seawall, which they allege has increased the ferocity of tidal wave attacks on their seaside homes.

The issue began on Wednesday, when a few members of the public prevented contractors from continuing with work on the second phase of the Rs.25 crore-harbour. Their contention was that while breakwater structures were constructed for the harbour, seawalls were put up for a short distance on either sides of the harbour. The presence of the breakwater structures had automatically caused the waves to lash with more ferocity on areas that do not have seawall protection. With the weather turning rough and tidal wave attacks beginning, the absence of the seawall was more pronounced, they say.

The protest is still on, and contractors have stopped work, leaving it to the authorities to work out a solution. However, local residents said no authority or public representative had so far visited the area to enquire about the issue.

The absence of a seawall has been a regular complaint along the Alappuzha coast, with several areas remaining unprotected despite regular reportage of tidal wave attacks and sea erosion. The Chethi harbour, along with the nearby Arthunkal fishing harbour, is being constructed by the State government as part of the tsunami rehabilitation works along the coast. Both the fishing harbours are expected to provide safe anchoring and trading centres for the fishermen, apart from acting as protective structures to the coast and boats along with the seawall.

The Chethi harbour will have two breakwater structures of 230 metres each and a 45 metre-wharf, expected to accommodate around 150 boats. A 240-square metre auction hall will also be part of the harbour, which was allotted Rs.3 crore for its second phase in the recent State Budget.

According to fishermen, both the harbours would enable boats from Aroor on the north side of the district and also those from Ambalapuzha on the southern side of the district to sell their catch here without having to go all the way to Punnapra, Ambalapuzha or even areas nearer to Ernakulam and other crowded fish landing centres along the coast.

More In: Kochi | Kerala | National