Tamil Nadu

One year after cyclone Gaja, marine ooze continues to disrupt fishing in Nagapattinam district

Marine ooze deposited on the shores of Pushpavanam and other villages under the impact of Cyclone Gaja

Marine ooze deposited on the shores of Pushpavanam and other villages under the impact of Cyclone Gaja   | Photo Credit: M. Moorthy

The calcium carbonate mud was first deposited on the shores following Cyclone Gaja last year, and has still not been cleared

Fishermen of Pushpavanam and other neighbouring villages, who witnessed a new phenomenon of marine ooze being deposited on their shores under the impact of Cyclone Gaja last year, continue to face problems due to the huge deposits of this marine clay.

Calcareous ooze is a calcium carbonate mud formed from the hard parts of the bodies of free-floating organisms. They are deposits of soft mud on the ocean floor. High tide and strong winds during the landfall period of the cyclone, deposited tonnes and tonnes of marine ooze, up to a height of 5 feet in some places, partially submerging the hamlet and areas around it up to 500 meters from the shoreline. Many fishermen including septuagenarians, who have lived in the village for decades, knew little about marine ooze.

 

Besides flooding many homes, the clay deposit had thrown the life of fishermen out of gear for many weeks. As many as 40 fibre fishing boats were damaged and were stuck in the clay. Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, who had visited Pushpavanam village to see the damage for himself, had promised to clear the clay deposits within a few weeks and disburse compensation for the loss of boats to the fishermen.

When this reporter visited the village a few days ago, ahead of the first anniversary of Cyclone Gaja, the village that bore the brunt of the cyclone’s impact had returned to normal life. But, work on clearing the clay is still on.

Fishermen of the village have been given financial compensation ranging from ₹12,000 to ₹1.5 lakh, depending on the extent of the damage to their boats. “We have received ₹1.5 lakh for fully-damaged boats. But, work on clearing the marine ooze is still continuing even a year after the cyclone. The work is daunting,” said M. Mahalingam (62).

While admitting that it was a Herculean task, many fishermen felt that the task could have been completed much earlier if officials were serious about it. Villagers say that the work was taken up in right earnest initially, with the deployment of a number of earth-movers to push the clay back into the sea. The clay, which is said to be calcareous, later dried up into a solid mass. After a few weeks of intensive operations, the work came to a halt.

The operation has resumed only a few days ago, apparently to clean up the affected area before the observance of the first anniversary of the cyclone. The earth-movers of the agriculture department have been working overtime for the last few days to clear the clay.

“The straight passage that leads to the shoreline from the village is still cut off by the clay deposit. Several fishermen have sustained injuries while negotiating the parched clay blocks to reach shoreline recently. The marine ooze has made it difficult for us to carry out fishing activities along the shoreline,” M. Jayapal, a fisherman of Pushpavanam.

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 3:38:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/marine-ooze-continues-to-disrupt-fishing-in-nagapattinam-district/article29980605.ece

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