PIL in Madras High Court wants T.N. to identify coastal erosion-prone areas and construct shore wedge reefs

The litigant association, Fishermen Care, also urged the court to quash a National Green Tribunal order preventing the construction of hard structures for erosion control until the preparation/updation of Shoreline Management Plans

Published - May 08, 2023 05:30 pm IST - CHENNAI

A view of groynes that control the speed of the high tides and sea erosion, at Ennore Expressway in Chennai. File

A view of groynes that control the speed of the high tides and sea erosion, at Ennore Expressway in Chennai. File | Photo Credit: JOTHI RAMALINGAM B

A public interest litigation petition has been filed in the Madras High Court, seeking a direction to the State government to identify vulnerable places that are prone to coastal erosion, and to construct shore wedge reefs, besides carrying out sand nourishment as expeditiously as possible in order to save the livelihood of fishermen.

Justices A.D. Jagadish Chandira and C. Saravanan have called for the response of the government, by June, to the PIL petition filed by Fishermen Care, an association represented by its president L.T.A. Peter Rayan (74), who retired from the post of Deputy Secretary to the government before beginning to work for the welfare of fishermen.

The petitioner’s counsel, L.P. Maurya told the court that large parts of Tamil Nadu’s coast lines were situated on the East, which has a sandy coastline and is therefore vulnerable to coastal erosion. The coastal geomorphology and related ecosystem play a large and vital role in economic development of the region, in terms of fishing and tourism.

However, “the severe and rapidly worsening coastal line erosion is damaging the subsistence based, sustainable and lucrative sectors of the local economy making the region increasingly vulnerable ecologically, socially and economically,” he told the court by relying upon a study conducted by the petitioner association.

The counsel also pointed out that coastal villages of Idunthakarai, Perumanal, Kotthanguli, Uvari and Kottapanai suffered from coastal erosion when sea walls were raised to protect the Koodankulam nuclar power plant in Tirunelveli district. Then, the government immediately raised a bait curve (Thoondil Valaivu) to protect these villages.

Similarly, when Alanthalai, Veerapandiapattinam, Periyathalai and Manapadu villages suffered coastal erosion when rough stones were pooled in the coast for nearly 8 km for the Udankudi thermal power plant, the State government raised another bait curve to protect these villages too.

The fishermen of Kodduthalai, Thomaiyarpuram and Kootapuli village of Radhapuram Taluk in Tirunelveli district were facing damage to their country boats due to coastal erosion and a rise in the sea level but the government was unable to help them due to a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order, the counsel said. He pointed out that while dealing with a case related to coastal regions, the NGT had, on April 11, 2022, had directed the coastal States to prepare/update their Shoreline Management Plans and restrained State governments from constructing hard structures for erosion control pending such preparation/updation of the SMP.

The petitioner association urged the High Court to quash the NGT’s order and issue a consequential direction to the State government to either erect a bait curve or construct a shore wedge reef to protect the coastal region of Kodduthalai, Thomaiyarpuram and Kootapuli villages.

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