Bringing Puducherry seaside again from the lifeless


Lower to current occasions: There isn’t a seaside to talk of within the metropolis of Puducherry. Years of neglect by consecutive governments, the development of a harbour and breakwaters have resulted within the loss of life of the once-beautiful seaside.

Referring to the pristine seaside within the oil portray, chief minister Narayanasamy recollects fondly, “We used to have a beautiful seaside prior to now and all of us performed within the sand.”

Outdated boys from the Sri Aurobindo Worldwide Centre of Training (an integral a part of Puducherry’s landmark Aurobindo Ashram) echoed the sentiment whereas recollecting their very own childhood.

Matriprasad, who goes solely by one title, now a senior functionary within the Ashram, wistfully remembers the numerous morning runs on the seaside. The Deshmukh brothers— Basabjit and Bappu—recalled their afternoon frisbee video games from the Sixties and Seventies. Locals keep in mind their morning and night walks on the pristine seaside within the Nineteen Eighties.

So, when and the way did the seaside disappear?

CM Narayanasamy blames the disappearance on pure erosion, the tsunami of 2004 and Cyclone Thane in 2011.

Environmentalists say the seaside progressively eroded after a harbour was constructed on the level the place the river Ariyankuppam flows into the Bay of Bengal, on the southern tip of Puducherry city. The development of the harbour (began in 1986 and accomplished in 1989) obstructed the pure movement of sand and led to widespread erosion alongside the city’s shoreline.

The Puducherry beach in the late 1970s. Photo: Aurofilio Schiavina/Pondycan

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The Puducherry seaside within the late Seventies. Photograph: Aurofilio Schiavina/Pondycan

There was a sustained marketing campaign since early 2000 by environmental and citizen teams to deal with the difficulty of coastal erosion. After greater than a decade and a half and plenty of aborted strikes by numerous governments, the present authorities below Narayanasamy formally launched the seaside restoration work in March. The continuing restoration work is anticipated to yield outcomes by October this yr.

This author went with Aurofilio Schiavina, co-founder of Pondicherry Citizen’s Motion Community (PondyCAN), an environmental group engaged on the seaside restoration marketing campaign, to witness the extent of abrasion alongside the town’s coast. We climbed the one lighthouse in Puducherry to get a chook’s-eye view of the coastal city. The breakwater jutting out into the ocean from the harbour was clearly the dividing line—we noticed a large unfold of sandy seaside in direction of the south of the harbour however within the north, in direction of the city, all we may see had been waves crashing into the black seawall.

Wake-up name

Explaining the ecological imbalance, Shekar Dattatri, an environmentalist who made the documentary movie India’s Disappearing Seashores-A Wakeup Name, says, “The north aspect of the harbour was starved of sand due to the obstruction attributable to the breakwater. The longshore drift washed away the present sand from the north and with no new sand flowing in to exchange what was misplaced, the harbour stored eroding within the course of the city.”

Schiavina added, “The British constructed the Chennai port north of the town and see how the town benefitted from the harbour with the Marina seaside. However in Puducherry, the other occurred.”

How are seashores shaped and maintained by nature? How have human interventions affected the pure ecosystem in Puducherry?

Dredging activity at Puducherry beach as part of the restoration project. Photo: Aurofilio Schiavina/Pondycan

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Dredging exercise at Puducherry seaside as a part of the restoration mission. Photograph: Aurofilio Schiavina/Pondycan

Standing on the seashore, you will have skilled the shifting sand each time the waves come and go. Though seaside sand seems static to the attention, it’s always on the transfer. Pure forces corresponding to waves, ocean currents and wind maintain shifting sand from one place to the opposite. This complicated geological course of—the motion of sand aided by wind, waves and water currents alongside the shoreline—is called the longshore drift or seaside drift. The sand (and silt) comes from the massive community of rivers after they movement out into the ocean.

Oblivious to us, the longshore drift strikes round billions of tonnes of sand alongside the coast all of the yr round.

On India’s east coast, the place Puducherry is located, for about 9 months, the South-East winds transfer the sand north and for 3 months the reverse happens with the North-East winds transferring the sand southwards. The North-East wind additionally brings the retreating monsoon to Puducherry.

Ecological issues come up when this dynamic ecosystem is punctured by human intervention. A current research printed within the journal Present Science states that 45% of India’s 7,500 plus-kilometre shoreline is being eroded.

Development of dams in rivers blocks the optimum sand and silt movement whereas breakwaters and groynes hinder the longshore drift. Scientists clarify that these laborious engineering methods, which seem helpful to some, create new issues elsewhere. The harbour in Puducherry is one such instance.

‘Profitable enterprise fashions’

In India, three forms of constructions are used for coastal safety. Seawalls (obstacles) and breakwaters (partitions extending into the ocean), championed by Central Water and Energy Analysis Station (CWPRS), Pune, and groynes (partitions operating cross-shore or perpendicular to the coast), advocated by the Indian Institute of Expertise (IIT), Madras.

In response to environmentalists, each breakwaters and groynes are designed to dam the longshore drift, creating little patches of seaside at one finish whereas shifting erosion additional up the shoreline.

The construction of the North Reef at Puducherry beach. Photo: Ananda Banerjee/Mint

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The development of the North Reef at Puducherry seaside. Photograph: Ananda Banerjee/Mint

“This system can preserve erosion at just one level and doesn’t provide a everlasting resolution. They construct each time there’s erosion alongside the shoreline. Additional, these constructions are profitable enterprise fashions, operating into crores, and beneficial for the contractor-builder fraternity as it’s an ongoing course of,” says Probir Banerjee, one other co-founder of PondyCAN.

The Nineteen Eighties noticed a number of initiatives by the central authorities to develop infrastructure. In Puducherry, a harbour, an airport and a brand new underground sewage system had been constructed. Since then, the harbour and the airport have been in disuse whereas the sewage system was operated with no remedy plant for a few years.

“Ideally, Puducherry wanted a fishing harbour for the normal fishing neighborhood and never a business port,” says Schiavina.

The seaside that might have been

To forestall the harbour mouth getting silted up, periodic dredging is a necessity. If the prescribed strategy of transferring amassed sand from the south aspect of the harbour to nourish the northern seaside had been adopted, the town would have had an exquisite seaside immediately. “From 1989 to 1991, the federal government didn’t dredge the harbour mouth, which had fully silted up despite the fact that the harbour design had an built-in sand bypass system designed by CWPRS, a primary of its type in Indian ports,” mentioned Schiavina.

Locals say that on account of administrative indecision and lack of funds, because the port couldn’t generate any income, the Puducherry port administration couldn’t proceed dredging and preserve the sand bypass system.

“The federal government works in silos—the Public Works Division (PWD) has ample funds to keep up the township however there is no such thing as a allotment of funds to the port division for dredging,” mentioned Banerjee.

In 1992, an try was made to dredge the harbour mouth and make the port operational but it surely bumped into hurdles.

The Puducherry beach before the 1950s. Photo: Aurofilio Schiavina/Pondycan

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The Puducherry seaside earlier than the Nineteen Fifties. Photograph: Aurofilio Schiavina/Pondycan

By 2006, round 8km of seaside had fully disappeared and 30km of shoreline (Puducherry and adjoining Tamil Nadu) was below extreme erosion.

Round 40 groynes had been deliberate by authorities companies to fulfill the calls for of fishing villages for synthetic creation of seashores for parking their boats in addition to constructing of seawalls to cease seawater incursions. It didn’t go unnoticed in the area people that these fishing villages had been energetic vote banks.

In 2007, residents of Puducherry got here collectively to type PondyCAN. An effort was made to alter the federal government’s mindset over seawalls, groynes and breakwaters— all non permanent options to cease coastal erosion.

“PondyCAN representatives had a number of conferences with the state and central governments prior to now decade however nothing optimistic has come out of any of those conferences,” says Banerjee.

In 2010, the then central atmosphere minister Jairam Ramesh agreed to sanction Rs60 crore for seaside restoration after listening to a plea from environmentalists but it surely didn’t fructify as there was no intervention from the state authorities.

“Because the centre can not impose any mission on the state, this was only one instance of a number of missed alternatives for Puducherry. Sadly, there is no such thing as a possession of India’s coast though a minimum of 5 central ministries are concerned in coastal actions,” mentioned Schiavina.

The restoration mission

Issues have began to lookup with the ministry of earth sciences handing over the job of restoring the seaside to Chennai-based Nationwide Institute of Ocean Expertise (NIOT), an autonomous physique below the ministry.

NIOT performed a research of the shoreline, gathering information on waves and nearshore present actions over 30 years, and tied up with Singapore-based Sanctuary Seaside, a agency with worldwide experience in seaside restoration work, to design the restoration work on Puducherry seaside.

“We’ve tried our greatest to maintain this mission as inclusive as potential, taking all stakeholder issues from the beginning,” says M.V. Ramana Murthy, senior scientist and group head, ocean constructions, NIOT. Murthy is overseeing the seaside restoration work.

In response to Sanctuary Seaside, to be able to recreate the misplaced seaside, the town must construct two reefs—a nearshore wedge-shaped reef to the north of the town foreshore and an offshore reef for the south of the town foreshore.

The northern reef, the agency suggests, will present a light barrier to sediment losses, enabling sand to maneuver naturally to the north whereas slowing sand loss from the town foreshore. The southern reef is designed to supply a secure and broad seaside to forestall sand losses from the town again to the harbour mouth. Each reefs can have rocks positioned underwater alongside the entrance and rear of the reef for scour safety. The rocks are anticipated to create a habitat for marine life.

Sanctuary Seaside

“Globally, there are various examples of reefs fixing the issue of abrasion, by blocking waves to supply a sheltered zone and create a large seaside. The purpose is to completely cease erosion moderately than discover non permanent methods to subdue the consequences,” states the worldwide consultancy agency.

Sanctuary Seaside was paid Rs90 lakh for reef design and consultancy.

Sanctuary Seaside claims the wedge-shaped reef designs are “modern” in comparison with the constructions designed by CWPRS and IIT- Madras. The triangular arrow-head formed reef prompt within the report can have a metal caisson laid on high of a horizontal rock platform constructed at a depth of two.5 metres. The report says it’s key for a sheltered shoreline and can scale back longshore currents to make sure sand is carried in direction of the shoreline.

The Puducherry promenade and seawall. Photo: Ananda Banerjee/Mint

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The Puducherry promenade and seawall. Photograph: Ananda Banerjee/Mint

NIOT is constructing the northern reef at a price of Rs25 crore. The continuing building is occurring proper outdoors the secretariat constructing on the seaside promenade. The south reef, which is meant to be constructed in entrance of the Ajanta Resort on the seaside highway, is the Puducherry authorities’s accountability and is claimed to value Rs35 crore. The gap between the northern and southern reef is round 1.5km. In response to Sanctuary Seaside, each reefs are essential and must be constructed on the similar time. However the state authorities is but to start out building due to an absence of funds.

The sand required for replenishing the Puducherry seaside is estimated to be 450,000 cubic metres, of which 300,000 must be provided by Dredging Corp. of India Ltd (DCI)/Puducherry port division by dredging from the harbour and inserting it in entrance of the city’s promenade. The dredging value is pegged round Rs15 crore.

Political wrangling

Political points have hampered dredging, slowing the seaside restoration mission.

In response to the chief minister’s workplace, the contract for dredging was awarded to DCI by lieutenant governor Kiran Bedi with out the federal government’s consent.

Bedi defends her transfer. “I used to be knowledgeable that there was virtually negligible dredging of the harbour prior to now. Choices had been collectively explored to keep away from such a scenario this time and thus DCI was thought of a viable possibility. If the secretariat had higher high quality, assurance and cheaper choices, nothing barred them to choose (a dredger).”

DCI officers on website say that the federal government has not been cooperating with native logistical help, particularly on hiring labour. Including to the woes, each dredgers getting used within the mission have had recurrent mechanical failures on account of excessive ranges of sewage within the harbour mouth.

On the time of reporting, the state-run port had introduced a non-public dredger from MARG-Karaikal port in Tamil Nadu at a price of Rs2.67 crore to expedite the method, however that too broke down.

The seaside restoration mission has suffered in consequence as a result of it slowed the work of dredging and spraying sand on the shoreline—a course of referred to as “rainbowing”.

NIOT’s Murthy is assured of restoring a small stretch of seaside by October-end. On the time of going to press Murthy confirms {that a} small stretch of seaside is now seen.

Over the subsequent few years, with steady sand nourishment, Puducherry might have a wider seaside crammed with sand as pristine as that within the oil portray hanging on the wall of the chief minister’s chamber within the meeting constructing.

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