June 3, 2009
The second report on NDTV’s “India’s Dying Beaches” is focussed on the devastation in the state of Orissa. Despite the evidence of more than 1 to 1 1/2 kilometres of eroded beaches after the development of Paradeep Port in 1968, the Orissa government has 11 new ports slated for development, including 3 major ones.
The accompanying news report is given below:
India’s dying beaches
Wednesday, June 03, 2009, (Paradeep, Orissa)
A study conducted recently by the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa, says that 23 per cent of India’s shoreline is getting eroded with four states — Maharashtra, Orissa, Karnataka and Kerala being the worst affected.
In Orissa, over 100 kms out of the state’s 480-km long coastline are facing erosion. One of the causes of beach erosion is human activity that interferes with sea dynamics such as ports.
The Paradeep port, the major port in Orissa, which came up in the late 1960s, has caused massive erosion across beaches up north and the worst example of this is Satbhaya panchayat in Orissa’s Kendrapara district where five hamlets have already been devoured by the sea.
In Orissa’s Kanhupur, five villages have been gobbled up by the sea. Satbhaya in Orissa’s Kendrapara district suffered seriously after the Paradeep port and its artificial breakwaters were built in the late 1960s.
“Scientific studies by the National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai have clearly shown that all ports lead to erosion in the north side. Since 1968 when Paradeep Port came up Satbhaya beach has started eroding. In fact the beach has been reduced as much as one to one and half kms since those days,” said Biswajit Mohanty, environmentalist.
The waves keep invading the villages every time the sea turns rough even the artificial sand barrier is no protection at all. So, when storms like Cyclone Aila strike, waves of saline water breached the embankment and inundated nearby villages. Over the years huge stretches of land are lying fallow.
But the Orissa government has not learnt its lessons. It’s hell bent on clearing half a dozen new port projects including three major ones. The state environment department however says there’s no reason for worry.
“We are taking steps and measures to protect the people and the sea-shore by plantations, by rehabilitation. We are taking up mangrove plantation and taking up casuarinas plantation so that sea erosion will not be there,” said Bhagirathi Behera, Director, Environment, Orissa.
Going by the disastrous effects of port-building activity experts have asked the state government to expand and upgrade existing ports rather than go for a string of new ones.
“I don’t know how the government can think of going ahead with 11 ports without having any concern for the effects the ports will have on fishermen, marine ecology and beaches,” said Biswajit Mohanty.
For an establishment drunk with the idea of rapid economic progress at any cost, the idea of protecting and preserving the sandy beaches may appear a little too overbearing but that is a liberty it should not perhaps be allowed to run away with.