The long-held belief that the construction of breakwaters to facilitate movement of fishing boats from Old Mangalore Port to the sea is to blame for erosion at Ullal has found fresh support. A recent report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has lent credence to this view, besides highlighting that building seawalls to stop erosion could be counterproductive.

K.S. Jayappa, Associate Professor in the Marine Geology Department of Mangalore University, told a seminar last September that sand extraction, construction of breakwaters and building dams across rivers were resulting in huge changes to undercurrents in the ocean and the way sand settled along the coast. The changes in sand sedimentation were responsible for sea erosion, he said.

The ADB report on the environmental impact assessment of the proposed project to find a lasting solution to erosion has said that Ullal beach used to be an attraction for the people of Mangalore. But soon after building breakwaters at the mouth of the Netravati and Gurpur rivers in 1994, the beach along the southern breakwater started getting eroded. “Government agencies started dumping granite boulders to form a seawall as a protective measure. But the erosion only worsened,” the report concludes.

Houses abandoned

The report said that the villages severely affected by erosion extend along the Ullal beach from Kotepura in the north to the Mukkacheri and Someshwara in the south. In Kaikonagar “several houses that were recently destroyed by waves are still visible”. Some portions of the walls built earlier are sinking, forcing agencies to dump more boulders. According to the local people, many attempts in the past to build rock walls on the beach did not succeed. Almost all the coconut palms that provided protection to houses have been uprooted or badly damaged. “Some people have abandoned their houses after they were severely damaged,” the report said.

The ADB, which will soon be taking up a larger sustainable coastal protection and management programme, has said that activities such as dredging and sand extraction have contributed to or caused much coastal erosion in India. Seawall construction can cause beach scour.

While the Government continues to deny the link between breakwaters and sea erosion, an official on Monday conceded that it could not ruled out.

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