Over 900 residents have been petitioning Water Resource Department to extend sea wall

The house of Janaki (55), which was closest to the sea in the fishing village of Nettukuppam, was washed away three days ago. The thatched hut fell on Friday night as the sea gobbled up yet another strip of beach in north Chennai. She is now staying with a neighbour.

The compound wall of Gopi's house, which was constructed by the State government after the 2004 tsunami, was also washed away the same night. Residents said the erosion took place because the Water Resources Department had not provided complete protection to the hamlet. The department, which began constructing a sea wall seven years ago, stopped work abruptly, leaving many of the houses exposed to the intruding sea.

In the last one month alone, a six-metre-high sand bank has been washed away at the point where the sea wall ends.

M. Kalaivanan, a resident of the village, said Nettukuppam had over 900 residents and they had been petitioning the department for over eight years now to extend the sea wall. “Numerous petitions submitted to the officials only went unanswered. The sea was 200 metres away from our village in 2004, but now it has been eating into our coast. They are taking measures now and various officials have camped here. It looks as if the WRD will take action only if a house falls due to wave action,” he said.

Residents recalled that many projects formulated over the past few years had remained on paper. The department had even devised proposals to establish geo-tube sea wall instead of concrete groynes to check tidal waves. However, it was dropped owing to the cost factor involved.

R. Ramesh, Director of National Centre of Sustainable Coastal Management, Ministry of Environment and Forests, said that the stretch of shoreline between Chennai port and Ennore port remains vulnerable to sea erosion. Marina beach is now experiencing sand accretion, owing to protective measures.

Normally, littoral current carries the sand from south to north direction during nine months in a year. The direction changes during the three months of the north-east monsoon. “It is rather unusual that this occurred north of Chennai port during summer. The wind pattern and the change in angle of wave action could be the reason and that has to be studied,” he said.

Meanwhile, the WRD is in the process of transporting boulders from Kancheepuram and Tindivanam to establish a 100-metre sea wall at Nettukuppam at a cost of Rs.50 lakh. “We are creating the sea wall on an emergency basis. It will take 20 days to complete work as the boulders are being transported from far off places. Earlier, we sourced them from Chettipunniyam. We are unable to get boulders from that quarry as the matter is in court,” an official said.

The department is also in the process of constructing groynes between Ennore and Ernavoorkuppam and strengthening the sea wall along Ennore Expressway. However, it would take another three months for the project to take off. Residents demand that the shoreline be protected on a war-footing.

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