Several environmental activists and civil rights groups in Puducherry have raised concern over the construction of a fish landing facility in Murthi Kuppam, calling it a “disaster in the making.”
Working under the banner of ‘Alliance for Good Governance' (AGG), these activists have sent a petition to the Union Minister of Environment and Forests Jayaram Ramesh, saying that the facility would result in heavy erosion across the northern coastline of Puducherry and adjoining villages in Tamil Nadu.
According to Probir Banerjee, member of PondyCAN, an environmental group here, the coastline was already facing severe erosion as a result of the Puducherry harbour that was built in 1989. He said that the Revenue Department had already identified 7,000 houses along coast as vulnerable to sea related disasters.
The new facility, being built at a cost of Rs. 9 crore, would require dredging in the mouth of the Mullodai canal, a freshwater source that feeds agricultural fields in several villages here. Two training walls, 200 and 240 metres in length respectively, would also be built near the facility to reduce deposition of sand in the canal mouth.
V. Sathiyamurthy, Executive Engineer of the PWD, said that all required sanctions from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, including Coastal Regulation Zone clearance, had been received by the department, before going ahead with the project. As per the CRZ notification of 1991, an Environment Impact Assessment is not necessary for building a fish landing facility.
According to Mr. Banerjee, “this approval was sought on the claim by the PWD that no sand dunes existed in the place where the facility is being built.” He said that satellite images on days before and after the tsunami in 2004, indicated that sand dunes existed even before the tsunami hit the coast. This was also confirmed by a 1970 Survey of India map which showed that the mouth of the canal was never open as claimed by the PWD.
Theva Neethi Dhas, Special Secretary to Government (Technology and Environment), said that if sand dunes were being dredged as alleged by the NGOs, it was a clear violation of norms. He said that the Pondicherry Coastal Zone Management Authority would go into the facts produced by the activists and initiate appropriate action.