Puducherry’s pristine beach reappears after three decades

A portion of the sandy beach that once extended into the sea has returned   | Photo Credit: KUMAR SS

It was from 1989 onwards when Puducherry's pristine beach that extended into the sea started disappearing due to rampant sea erosion. Thirty-two years later, in July 2021, the beach has now returned on the southern side.

The trigger, was the port constructed in 1989 that disrupted the littoral drift and resulted in accumulation of sand on the southern side and erosion on the northern side. The construction of the harbour, with its wall projecting into the sea, blocked the movement of sand from the south towards the north.

Though a sand bypassing system was provided at the harbour to regularly shift the sand from south to north, this was not done properly. The harbour had already eroded an estimated 10 km of beach sand and continues to erode the beaches along the Tamil Nadu coastline.

Now however, the beachfront on the Promenade, the most frequented place in the coastal town for locals and tourists alike, has extended in size, two months after the Port Department launched a beach nourishment project recommended by the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT).

According to official sources, for the beach nourishment project, over 5.10 lakh cubic tonnes of sand had to be dredged from the mouth of the Thengaithittu fishing harbour, transported, and deposited via pipelines 3-4 km away near the old pier.

The Port Department has already dredged one lakh cubic metres of sand and once the exercise is over, a beach will be formed. The Port has engaged a hi-tech cutter suction dredger to deepen the sea mouth and restore the sandy beach.

According to Probir Banerjee of PondyCan, a non-governmental organisation, “Puducherry’s famous beach is coming back and this is a moment of joy and celebration. If the government continues to do the dredging, the whole beach will get restored.”

According to M.V. Ramana Murthy, Director of National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), “Basically, the beach has formed. The accumulated sand in the harbour is being bypassed to the north and the width of the beach now has extended to 60 metres while it is slightly lower on the northern side.”

“Once the quantity of sand deposited is increased the sandy beach could be realised and the northern part would be more stabilised,” he said.

According to Aurofilio Schiavina, an expert on Coastal management and member of PondyCan, "The sand that is dredged from the sea mouth is fed to a booster pump located near the La Marina. The booster pump then deposits the sand all the way to the south of the promenade where the sand is being used for nourishment."

"This new input of sand is making the beaches grow and is making the sea recede. The widest beach can be seen near Hotel Ajantha and the bypassed sand has now reached all the way to the Gandhi statue. In the next few weeks, the sand will move to the south with the waves and the currents and it will start to cause widening of beaches near the northern submerged reef."

Without the southern reef in place, the beaches to the south may be unstable and may disappear once the nourishment is terminated. For this reason, regular beach nourishment has to be undertaken, he said.

This should not be difficult because at the same time regular dredging is also needed at the harbour mouth. But if the dredging is going to be irregular then the southern reef would help to stabilise the beaches on the southern part of the promenade, Mr Schiavina added.

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 9:13:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/puducherrys-pristine-beach-reappears-after-three-decades/article35576861.ece

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