Pudukuppam residents grapple with sea erosion

Groundwater aquifers have started turning saline and fisherfolk and farmers have been losing land, what with the construction of a groyne at Thazhanguda in Cuddalore district

September 19, 2022 12:08 am | Updated 12:08 am IST - PUDUCHERRY

The Pudukuppam coastline has been facing the brunt of sea erosion owing to the construction of a groyne at adjacent Thazhanguda in Cuddalore district.

The Pudukuppam coastline has been facing the brunt of sea erosion owing to the construction of a groyne at adjacent Thazhanguda in Cuddalore district. | Photo Credit: S.S. KUMAR

For the past few months, residents of Pudukuppam, a coastal hamlet in Puducherry, have been facing the brunt of sea erosion. The groundwater aquifers have started turning saline and fisherfolk and farmers have been losing land to the sea, what with the construction of a groyne at Thazhanguda, a coastal hamlet in the neighbouring Cuddalore district in Tamil Nadu, say environmentalists.

While strong waves have been lashing the coast for some time, the situation has worsened recently with seawater entering houses and damaging structures along the coastline. This has endangered the lives of residents, especially the fishermen, said a Pudukuppam resident.

According to V. Chandrasekhar, president of Bangaru Vaickal Neeradhara Kootamaippu, a water-users’ association, “Habitations in Pudukuppam have been facing the brunt of erosion due to dumping of boulders by the Cuddalore district administration at Thazhanguda. The construction of a fishing harbour at Thazhanguda has disrupted the littoral drift, resulting in rampant erosion and ingression of seawater.”

He added, “Beaches north of Puducherry have eroded because of the Puducherry port. Now, the fishing harbour at Thazhanguda is bound to do the same, causing erosion of sand dunes and ingression of seawater into the coastal aquifers.”

According to Aurofilio Schiavina, an expert in coastal management and member of PondyCan, a civil society organisation, “The groyne is bound to cause coastal erosion south of Puducherry. The fishermen, presumably those from the mechanised sector, are unfortunately looking at their own interest. This doesn’t serve the larger public, environmental and economic interests. It is also not serving the interests of the artisanal fishermen who depend on the beaches.”

The tourism sector of Puducherry should also be worried because there are several beach resorts to the south of Puducherry that are likely to get affected. But the erosion caused by the groyne is not irreversible. The Tamil Nadu government should ensure that the sand is bypassed around the groyne. The eroding beaches in Puducherry should be nourished and stabilised. This will allow everybody to enjoy the benefits of the groyne and of the beaches, Mr. Schiavina said.

According to Probir Banerjee, member of PondyCan, “The construction of the groyne is also in violation of a recent order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which had directed all the States and the Union Territories not to raise hard structures for controlling erosion, as they cause an adverse impact upstream or downstream. The structure will transfer the erosion, and the impact would be very severe on the adjacent coast.”

Mr. Banerjee said all activities such as the construction of hard structures like groynes were only ad hoc and mediocre reactions. The coastal communities would wait for the beach to come to their doorstep and raise an alarm. Then, the government would put up a groyne. “They don’t consider anything and wait until the crisis happens and then go in for manmade structures.”

“The construction of a groyne by the Villupuram district administration at Thandarayankuppam to the north of Puducherry has resulted in rampant erosion of the coast. A study revealed that about 70 metres of the beach had eroded three months after the structure came up. Initially, erosion will happen slowly and then gather momentum. The groynes must be removed, and there must be a scientifically designed submerged structure to address the environmental and social impact in future,” he added.

When contacted, Cuddalore Collector K. Balasubramaniam said the groyne was designed by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras to reduce the impact of instant wave energy and arrest sea erosion. The construction was progressing.

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