Tamil Nadu

Waiting for MoEF approval to open Pulicat sand bar mouth permanently, State tells High Court

Fishermen dependent on the lake for their livelihood were put to hardship due to frequent closure of the bar mouth caused by sediment drift   | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

Travails faced by the Pulicat fishermen due to frequent closure of the sand bar mouth, a natural opening between the lake and the Bay of Bengal, would end as soon as the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change grants environment clearance for opening the bar mouth permanently at a cost of ₹27 crore, the State government has informed the Madras High Court.

In a status report filed before Justices Vineet Kothari and M.S. Ramesh, the State Fisheries Department said all other ancillary works such as conducting a public hearing and calling for tenders for construction of training walls to provide permanent stability to the bar mouth had been completed and that the officials were waiting only for the Centre’s environment clearance.

The status report was filed through Special Government Pleader J. Pothiraj in response to a public interest litigation petition filed by A. Usha, a resident of Tiruvallur district. It stated that the Pulicat lake, spread across 760 sq. km., was the second largest brackish water lagoon in the country.

The lake acts as a flood water buffer for River Arani in Tamil Nadu and Kalangi as well as Swarnamuki Rivers in Andhra Pradesh before discharging the it into the Bay of Bengal during the rainy seasons.

Post monsoon, the bar mouth helps in flow of lake water into the Bay of Bengal during low tides and flow of sea water into the lake during high tides.

“This exchange of water happens due to gravitational forces exerted on the earth by the moon and sun,” M. Murugesan, Executive Engineer, Fishing Harbour Project Division, Chennai said in the report and added that the frequent mixture of fresh water with sea water helps in the growth of brackish water species in the lake.

Prawns were the main source of sea food caught from the lake followed by mullets, green crab, jelly fish and fin fish. Nevertheless, fishermen dependent on the lake for their livelihood, were put to hardship due to frequent closure of the bar mouth due to sediment drift during non-monsoon seasons.

The State government spent ₹1.5 crore in December 2019 for opening the mouth of the 230-metre-long sand bar between the lake the Bay of Bengal but it got closed again in June this year due to change in wind direction and non-flooding of the rivers. Hence, it was decided to pursue a project that was initiated in 2014 for permanent opening of the bar mouth.

On February 26, 2014, the government had sanctioned ₹40 lakh towards consultancy charges for preparation of a techno economic feasibility report and to conduct model studies for permanent opening of the mouth. Accordingly, Indian Institute of Technology-Madras submitted a detailed project report along with cost estimate of ₹27 crore.

A marine environment impact assessment study was also carried out by the Centre for Advanced Study in Marine Biology of Annamalai University in March this year. However, the conduct of public hearing alone got delayed due to outbreak of COVID-19 but finally it was conducted in the fish market hall of Pulicat village on October 29.

Member Secretary, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, had forwarded the minutes of the public hearing to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change on November 7. In the meantime, the government also issued an order on October 5 sanctioning ₹26.85 crore for constructing the training walls aimed at giving permanent stability to the bar mouth.

Based on the financial sanction, tenders were called on November 18 and the tender scrutinizing work was in progress, the court was told. After hearing the Special Government Pleader, the judges asked Assistant Solicitor General G. Karthikeyan to use his good offices and assist the State government in obtaining environment clearance for the project at the earliest.

They adjourned further hearing on the PIL petition to next month.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 9:29:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/waiting-for-moef-approval-to-open-pulicat-sand-bar-mouth-permanently-state-tells-high-court/article33203189.ece

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