Chief Minister Rangasamy inspecting the dredging work of Ariyankuppam River mouth
— Photo: T.Singaravelou, The Hindu, 27 February 2008
Chief Minister N. Rangasamy on Tuesday reviewed the dredging work of Ariankuppam river mouth to facilitate free movement of vessels to the fishing harbour.
On 26 December 2007, the Port Department of the Government of Pondicherry inaugurated the TSD Sindhuraj, a dredger owned by the Kerala State Maritime Development Corporation (KSMDC), to dredge the mouth of the Ariyankuppam River, presumably as a “beach nourishment” measure. Banners put up at the “New Pier” (built in 1989) where the inauguration ceremony took place claimed: “Beach Nourishment Activity due to DREDGING at Pier” and “Beach Nourishment Activity due to DREDGING at Northern Groyne.”
Government disinformation banner
Because the New Pier interrupts the littoral drift (the natural movement of sand along the coast), sand accretes (accumulates) to the south of the pier (and blocking the mouth of the Ariyankuppam River at the north groyne of the harbour) and is eroded north of the harbour. Engineers predicted this problem when the New Pier was being designed and suggested continuous dredging to pass the sand from south to north of the pier. However, maintenance dredging was not done on an annual basis, resulting in the loss of over seven kilometers of beach in Pondicherry.
As per the agreement signed between Puducherry Government and KSMDC on November 7, 2007, which operates the Dredging Corporation of India’s dredger TSD SINDHURAJ, would de-silt one lakh cubic metres of sand deposited in the river mouth by the end of March this year.
Two months after the inauguration, the stated reason for the dredging has changed from “beach nourishment” to “facilitate free movement of vessels to the fishing harbour”, as reported in the Hindu article quoted in this post.
As per the agreement, the territorial administration has to pay a fee of Rs 2.87 crore to desilt the harbour.
With Tsunami money to be spent by the end of this fiscal year (March 2008), the Port Department hired the TSD Sindhuraj, a shallow drag suction dredger, at a cost of over US$ 735,000, to remove 100,000 cubic meters of sand. This is being done to enable the trawlers owned by corporations and politicians to access the fishing harbour. The local fishermen have no problems getting out to sea and back in their traditional boats.
Officials said the vessel had so far made 287 trips to dump the dredged sand about 4 kilometres away from the Ariankuppam river mouth.
Citizens of Pondicherry requested that the sand that was to be dumped out at sea south of the pier, be taken closer to the beach north of the pier to replenish the coast. The Port Director claimed that because of the design of the dredger, the boat could not come closer than 4 meters, but agreed to send the TSD Sindhuraj to release the sand at 4 meters. However, even that was not done.
According to an abstract of the ‘Outline of the drag suction dredger “TSD SINDHURAJ”‘:
This ship is planned with the fully loaded [capacity is 200 cubic meters] draft of 2.0 m to dredge the shallow sea beds of small fishing ports in India, and is equipped with a submersible auxiliary pump at the bow to dredge shallow sea beds. It has 2 motors, 2 shafts, and 2 rudders for maneuverability.
Surely some attempt could have been made not to waste even this drop-in-the-bucket amount of sand.