Coastal areas under threat

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Precarious existence: Whipped up by monsoon winds, a raging sea threatens to swallow what remains of a house at Beemapally in the city on Thursday.
Precarious existence: Whipped up by monsoon winds, a raging sea threatens to swallow what remains of a house at Beemapally in the city on Thursday.

Special Correspondent

Strong waves hit coastal areas; families shifted at Beemapally

Thiruvananthapuram: Panic gripped the coastal areas in the district on Thursday as strong waves, whipped up by monsoon winds, continued to pound the beaches for the second day in succession, threatening to damage houses and displace families along the shoreline.

At Beemapally, Revenue officials began preparations to relocate 15 families whose houses were under threat from the lashing waves. Tahsildar C.R. Krishnakumar said the families would be shifted to the Beemapally Government Upper Primary School.

The village officer has been directed to keep a close watch on the Poonthura coast where residents are preparing to flee to safer places.

Two buildings, a house at Anchengo and a storage shed at Kadakkavur, were reported damaged in the Chirayinkeezh taluk.

The district administration is gearing up for an emergency situation. A control room began functioning at the District Collectorate here as well as at the Thiruvananthapuram, Neyyatinkara and Chirayinkeezh taluk offices.

In the absence of an integrated strategy for coastal protection, hundreds of families are forced to endure a harrowing time during the monsoon when the sea swallows up large stretches of the shore, tearing down huts, cutting off roads and damaging seawalls.

The beaches in the Kadhinamkulam, Arattumula, Pozhiyoor, Avaduthura, Poonthura, Valiathura, Cheriyathura and Panathura areas are the most prone to erosion. Every time the waves rush in, residents begin a clamour for the construction of sea walls.

Unscientific coastal protection methods and indiscriminate sand quarrying from riverbeds and beaches have been identified as the causes for the worsening erosion. Successive governments have maintained a studied silence in the face of public pressure to evolve an alternative coastal conservation and development plan.

Ironically, the construction of seawalls, which is the only protection strategy adopted by the government since 1964, is cited as one of the major reasons for the worsening erosion.

Scientists point out that construction of sea walls has affected the entire hydrodynamics of the coast, causing mass migration of several species of fish to other coasts in search of natural conditions. It is also blamed for the decline in shore-based fishing activities.

Scientists maintain that the best coastal protection strategy is to preserve the beach by distancing all developmental activities and creating a buffer zone for the interplay of land and sea.

“Sea erosion is a temporary phenomenon along the Thiruvananthapuram coast. The lost beach is naturally restored in about a month’s time. To minimise calamities, inhabitants can be relocated to interior areas during the monsoon,” says M. Baba, director, Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS).

T. Peter, president of the Kerala Swathantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation proposes anticipatory relocation of families from the erosion- prone areas. Agencies such as the CESS should be entrusted with the task of mapping the coast to identify vulnerable areas, he says.




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