The sand hills that minimised 2004 tsunami impact were flattened by recent cyclone

Several-centuries old sand dunes lining up the Cuddalore shoreline and acting as a natural barricade against storm surges and influx of tidal waves have been ravaged and flattened by cyclone ‘Thane.'

These sand dunes, at certain points standing as tall as 40 ft with sparse vegetations atop, have been pilloried and razed. These dunes found largely in the coastal villages of Thiruchopuram, Thiyagavalli, Naduthittu, Nochikadu, Chithiraipettai, Rasapettai and Parangipettai that lent a scenic beauty and thus, attracted many filmmakers and television serialmakers.

The Shivaji Ganesan–Jayalalithaa starrer Tamil movie “Dharmam Enge” was said to have been filmed at Thiruchoporum in the early 1970s and then followed a series of movies such as “Kizhakku Merkku” and a slew of TV serials. In fact, the sand dunes minimised the impact of the 2004 tsunami in these villages. Though fishing happens to be the primary occupation of residents, they also grow cash crops such as cashew and commercial tree species such as casuarinas.

The cyclone has not only levelled up the historic sand dunes but its swirling winds laid waste the cashew and casuarinas plantations. Such a wide-scale damage suffered by these villages has prompted the Integrated Coastal and Marine Area Management (ICMAM), under the purview of the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences, to conduct a study in the post-Thane.

B.R.Subramanian, ICMAM Project Director, told The Hindu that two scientific teams from his organisation conducted a three-day study at 13 locations in these villages to assess the wind surge pattern and the after-effects of the Thane. The sand dunes that once stood guard to these coastal villages were pulled down by the waves that rose up to one-and-half-metre height and the wind velocity that touched 130 km per hour.

After the sand dunes were knocked down the sea incursion occurred for a distance of 50–300 metres into these villages. Since it was a natural phenomenon it would be humanly impossible to recreate the sand dunes.