A Rs.9.06-crore project to firm up the district’s coastline with sea walls is reaching its final leg even as the sea continues to claim chunks of beach every monsoon.

Sources in the Irrigation Department’s Coastal Erosion Studies Subdivision here say the shoreline has receded by about 20 to 35 metres at various spots along the 72-km coast since the 1990s.

Experts such as N.P. Kurien, Director, Centre for Earth Science Studies, say this is because sea wall construction is executed to ‘satisfy local populations’ without collecting proper data.

Several structures have abrupt ends which trigger erosion. “A sea wall has to be constructed as per a site-specific design. Factors such as sufficient beach frontage, wave height and period data, current direction, oscillation of the beach concerned, etc, have to be weighed in,” Dr. Kurien says.

The Irrigation Department, in charge of sea wall construction, says they have to choose between public interest and coastal erosion during sea wall constructions.

“The walls are constructed to protect populated areas and major coastal roads. At some points we are compelled to stop the construction taking into account public interest, especially in case of fishing gaps. They say a coastal wall would affect their livelihood,” Abdul Rasak Koottil, Assistant Executive Engineer, Irrigation South Division, Kozhikode, says.

But in places such as Kothi it is a tough choice. On one hand there is 500 metres of coastline exposed to the sea. On the other, local fishermen, mostly into mussel cultivation, insist the department leave it alone for fishing access.

Department officials say the current project covers the construction of new sea walls and reformation of old ones in 13 high-risk coastal areas, both within Corporation and panchayat limits. All the spots identified under the project are either highly populated or popular tourist places.

The money for the project was portioned out to the district from the Central funds allotted under the 13th Finance Commission’s recommendations for anti-sea erosion works across the country as per ‘State-specific needs’ to combat coastal erosion.

“There is a lot of money being spent on sea walls… huge money. All we are saying is that it has to be made sure that the investment is really worth it. But normally this does not seem to happen,” Dr. Kurien says.