Author Archives: yoomilee

Coastal Wars: A Storm Foretold – Tehelka Cover Story

There will soon be one port every 28 km of the Indian coast. While Singapore has only one port, and the US 30, Gujarat will have 50 ports — one every 25 km. Maharashtra will have the highest density, with one every 13 km. Each port is linked to a private industrial hub, housing chemical factories, power plants and automobile units.

Rohini Mohan’s cover story for the November 2011 issue of Tehelka sounds the alarm on an impending crisis by the sea, as energy projects, tourism and SEZs plunder the coasts at the expense of traditional fishermen and their families.

Read the full story here.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sunita Narain: Where are the beaches?

The Business Standard has published an article by Sunita Narain called:  “Where are the beaches?”  based on Ms. Narain’s visit to the eroded beaches along the coast of Pondicherry.  The text of the article, dated 9 May 2011, appears below:

We were on a beach, somewhere close to Puducherry. It was a surreal sight: half-smashed houses with fronts wide open, and people still living in them. The devastation was caused not by a sea storm or cyclone, but by the eroded beach. The sea had crept up to the village so there was no protection between the sea and the village.

Why was this happening, I asked. My guides were members of the Pondy Citizens’ Action Network (PondyCAN), which has worked tirelessly to draw the nation’s attention to beach erosion.

To understand this, we walked a little distance away from the devastated village. From the beach, I could see massive granite stones piled up to build a groyne stretching into the sea. This structure, constructed to protect villages from erosion, ends up protecting one village and destroying another, explained my guides.

But I could still not see the connection. How could one small structure like this change the coastal ecology? Civil engineer Probir Banerjee and marine engineer Aurofilio Schiavina explained that a beach is not just a lot of sand. “Beaches are rivers of sand” because each year sea waves transport huge quantities of sand from north to south and south to north. During the southwest monsoon, some 600,000 cubic metres of sand is moved towards the north. Also, during the three months of the northeast monsoon (when winds are fierce), as much as 100,000 cubic metres of sand gets transported towards the south across the eastern coasts of the country.

So beaches are living creatures – winds and waves bring sand in one season and take it away in another. My teachers further explained marine science: “Then, think of the groyne as a dam in a river which will block the movement of sand, not water.” In this case, the groyne has stopped the movement of sand to the beach ahead. Thus, the beach does not grow and when the wind changes, the monsoon gets fierce, and the sea moves in. There is no beach to protect the land beyond.

The lesson did not finish yet. Our next stop was the Puducherry harbour, with a breakwater making its way into the sea to protect boats. This structure, which was built in 1986, marked the beginning of devastating changes at the coast. Once the harbour was built, it first changed the beach closest to it – the beach along the city of Puducherry.

“I played on the beach as a child,” said V Narayanasamy, member of Parliament from Puducherry and minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office. “What beach?” I asked. All I could see for miles were black granite stones piled along the ocean promenade. By then it was evening. People had gathered to enjoy the beach and the sunset. But there was neither sand nor beach – only rocks.

All this had been lost in living memory in 15 to 20 years. People had lost their playground. More importantly, a city had lost its critical ecosystem, which would protect its land and recharge its groundwater. And fishermen had lost their livelihood.

But this is just the beginning, explained Mr Banerjee. This structure, small by modern standards of harbours or ports, has spun an entire chain of changes in the beach along the coast. The groyne that we saw earlier was built because the length of the coast stretching 10 to 20 km was now destablised. We could see piles of sand accumulated before the harbour, blocking way to regenerate the beaches. Now every beach needs a groyne and every groyne adds to the problem of the next beach.

Ports are interventions in the natural ecology of coasts. But we neither understand the impact nor worry about dealing with the damage. A few years ago, Puducherry woke up to the reality that its harbour required to be rebuilt and contracts and concessions were awarded to transform it into a massive port (some 20 million tonnes annually). The citizens’ group, which was against the project, went to the court. But the developer – who, strangely, had no experience in ports, and built shops and malls – is not letting go. This is a sweet deal, which brings real estate benefits since the port concession package comes with cheap city land for cost recovery.

In this stretch of some 600 km, you can count seven ports that exist and another three are proposed. This is when each existing port is not used to capacity and is still being upgraded big time. Then why are we building more ports? Is this development? Or land grab?

Interestingly, there is an absence of policy on siting and the number of ports in the country. The Central government knows only about “major” ports and leaves the rest – permission to locate and build other ports – to state governments. There is no distinction between a major port and a state port. It is just a matter of how many one can fit into the coast as fast, and as profitably, as possible. Nobody, therefore, knows how many ports are being built. Nobody cares about the cumulative impact on rivers of sand.

Surely, this cannot be called development. Can it?

sunita@cseindia.org

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

India to Map Its Coastal Hazard Line

The following is a press release prepared by the Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests (the spelling and grammatical mistakes made by the Press Bureau have been left intact):

India to Map Its Costal Hazard Line to Enhance Prepared Sec- Based Hazards Like Tsunami-Like Event

08-April-2011 14:7 IST

Stereo Digital Aerial Photography (SDAP) will be used to map the coastline of the country. The total cost involved for SDAP is Rs.27crores. The SDAP will cover the 11000km arc coastline from Gujarat to West Bengal with an area of 60,000sq kms. This initiative is a critical part towards the planned management of the country’s coastal zone. Under the World Bank assisted project, the hazard line for the mainland coast of India will be mapped, delineated and demarcated on the ground over a period of five years. This will include the collection and presentation of data, identifying flood lines over the last 40 years which includes sea level rise impacts, and a prediction of erosions to take place over the next 100 years.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests has signed an agreement with the Survey of India , Department of Science and Technology, to map, delineate and demarcate the hazard line along India’s wide coastal belt. The Memorandum of Understanding for this project was signed on 12th May, 2010. The hazard line is a composite line of the shoreline changes including sea level rise due to climate change, tides and waves. The total cost of this survey is projected at Rs.125 crore.

For the purpose of SDAP, the Indian mainland coastline has been divided into eight blocks, namely, (1) from the Indo-Pakistan border to Somnath in Gujarat; (2) Somnath to Ulhas River in Maharashtra; (3) Ulhas River to Sharavathi River in Karnataka; (4) Sharavathi River to Cape Comoran in Tamil Nadu; (5) Cape Comoran to Ponniyur River in Tamil Nadu; (6) Ponniyur River to Krishna River in Andhra Pradesh; (7) Krishna River to Chhatrapur in Orissa; and (8) Chhatrapur to Indo-Bangladesh Border in West Bengal.

M/s IIC, Hyderabad in joint venture with M/s AAM Pty Limited, Australia was selected to undertake the project. The SDAP will be completed within an estimated fifteen months depending upon the weather. Based on this, maps will be prepared in 1:10,000scale and after ground verification, pillars will be erected demarcating the hazard line.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

New NDTV Campaign to Save India’s Coasts

NDTV has started a new campaign to ‘Save India’s Coasts.’ Two reporters, Sarah Jacob and Sikta Deo will travel the entire coast of India, starting in western Gujarat and ending in West Bengal in 6 weeks, reporting on the issues facing the coast along the way.

The introductory episode, featuring discussions with Sunita Narain, Director of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE); Probir Banerjee, President of Pondy Citizens’ Action Network (PondyCAN!); and key reporters in Chennai (focusing on illegal sand mining), Mumbai (detailing the destruction of mangroves for the proposed Navi Mumbai airport) and Orissa (where 14 new ports have been approved), can be seen here.

Future reports will be consolidated here, which includes the latest report on a visit to Marine National Park near Jamnagar, Gujarat, with Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

CoastalCare.org Features Article on Pondicherry/Tamil Nadu Coastal Erosion

Coastal Care, a non-profit foundation dedicated to defending the beaches and shorelines of our shared planet, has a feature (along with photos) on the erosion along the Pondicherry/Tamil Nadu coastline.

The story can be seen here:  http://coastalcare.org/2010/08/pondicherry-tamil-nadu-south-india/

Coastal Care highlights similar problems with beach erosion in other parts of the world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Shipping Ministry Opposes Pondy Port

A Times of India article dated 8 April 2010 reports that the Shipping Ministry, as well as the Union Home Ministry, opposes the multi-crore deep water port proposed by the Puducherry government.  The Shipping Ministry argues in an affidavit that Puducherry, a Union Territory, does not have the power to approve contracts exceeding Rs. five crore without the consent of the Union government.  The estimated cost of the proposed port in Pondicherry is Rs. 2,700 crores.

Based on the findings of a special audit team, the Home Ministry filed a recall application of a Supreme Court judgment upholding a Madras High Court order in favor of the Puducherry government.  The special audit team reports that the Puducherry government did not exercise due diligence before awarding the contract to a private company and did not incorporate adequate safeguards in the agreement with the developer.  The Shipping Ministry is also urging the Court to recall its judgment.

The full text of the article may be found here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

To Save the Planet, Save the Seas

Dan Laffoley, marine vice chairman of the World Commission of Protected Areas at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has an excellent op-ed published on 26 December 2009 in the New York Times titled: To Save the Planet, Save the Seas.

He argues for a program similar to Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) (under which developing countries would be compensated for preserving forests, peat soils, swamps and fields that are efficient absorbers for carbon dioxide) for the world’s oceans.

Few people may realize it, but in addition to producing most of the oxygen we breathe, the ocean absorbs some 25 percent of current annual carbon dioxide emissions. Half the world’s carbon stocks are held in plankton, mangroves, salt marshes and other marine life. So it is at least as important to preserve this ocean life as it is to preserve forests, to secure its role in helping us adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Laffoley writes that the most efficient natural carbon sink is found not on land but in the ocean – a species of sea grass called the Posidonia oceanica, which forms vast “meadows” underwater.

Worldwide, coastal habitats like these are being lost because of human activity. Extensive areas have been altered by land reclamation and fish farming, while coastal pollution and overfishing have further damaged habitats and reduced the variety of species. It is now clear that such degradation has not only affected the livelihoods and well-being of more than two billion people dependent on coastal ecosystems for food, it has also reduced the capacity of these ecosystems to store carbon.

Coastal and marine habitats such as salt marshes, kelp forests and sea grass meadows should be protected and restored to mitigate climate change.

Managing these habitats is far less expensive than trying to shore up coastlines after the damage has been done. Maintaining healthy stands of mangroves in Asia through careful management, for example, has proved to cost only one-seventh of what it would cost to erect manmade coastal defenses against storms, waves and tidal surges.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized