Rs. 12 crore has been spent since 2001 on building temporary sea walls
Every year it’s the same tale: the monsoon breeze whips the sea into a frenzy, which in turn takes out its anger on the coast, sweeping down roads and houses; and after a few days of damage, the district administration announces funds for temporary sea walls. Stones are dumped, and by the time the waves pound the shores again next year, the stones have seemingly reduced in competency.
Including the Rs. 1.43 crore allotted for temporary sea wall construction this year, over Rs. 12 crore has been spent, almost like a yearly ritual, since 2001 — a majority of which is spent in and around Ullal.
As reported numerous times, during sea erosion, residents of Mogaveerpatna, Mukacherry and other areas complain of the inadequacy of the temporary walls, or that the walls are strengthened and augmented only after considerable damage has been done.
Even engineers at the Ports Department are baffled by the fast disappearance of the walls.
“We don’t expect sea erosion around 1.5 metres below the sea surface; but it happens here. As the sand beneath the wall is being taken away, the wall sinks and rocks are washed away,” said an engineer, adding that hurried nature of the wall construction expedites the process.
Even so, with names like Hilarinagar, Subashnagar, Mogaveerapatna routinely popping up in emergency works, why can’t the department plan before the advent of the monsoon?
“We can’t predict where sea erosion will happen…and we will dump stones only when it seems essential,” said A.S. Rao, Assistant Executive Engineer, adding that erosion had intensified since the construction of breakwaters at the old and new ports here.
He claimed that works are expedited by breaking them into smaller sections that cost less than Rs. 2.5 lakh each (thereby, bypassing government regulations regarding issuing of tenders), while contractors are “contacted informally”.
However, in 2010, this led to procedural trouble, and payment was withheld. In the two subsequent years, even with reports of sea erosion, works were not taken up as contractors refused to come forward until payment was done. Though payment was approved this year, considerable damage had been done already.
Even engineers in the department are sceptical of the hurried-nature of the sea walls — something they say is dictated by political pressure instead of scientific survey. Moreover, they question the quality of work as the “same contractors, who come forward, have formed a lobby”.
While denying the presence of a lobby, a contractor said trouble in getting stones, areas with no approach roads, and rough seas hindered the work. “A temporary sea wall here can last only a year, and we can’t do much about it,” he claimed.