Shoreline plan to check sea erosion

The Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project in Odisha will receive an impetus with plans afoot to draft a shoreline management plan for the state's 480km coastline.

By Ashutosh Mishra in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 4.07.16
Aerial view of the Gopalpur coastline. Telegraph picture

Bhubaneswar, July 3: The Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project in Odisha will receive an impetus with plans afoot to draft a shoreline management plan for the state's 480km coastline.

The project is a multidisciplinary and iterative process that promotes sustainable management of coastal zones. It includes information collection, planning, decision making, management as well as monitoring of implementation.

The outline of the proposed plan with focus on striking a balance between protecting coastal environment and sustainable livelihood of local communities was discussed on Thursday at a meeting chaired by chief secretary A.P. Padhi and attended, among others, by project director Ajit Pattanaik.

While the chief secretary underscored the urgent need for addressing problems such as coastal erosion and livelihood vulnerability of the coastal communities, the issue of developing a reliable database on environmental and socio-economic features of the areas along the seaboard was also discussed.

The plan, which will be drawn following research over a period of 15 months at a cost of Rs 12 crore, will incorporate inputs and suggestions from stakeholders. Pattanaik said Odisha was the first state in the country to initiate action for preparing such a plan. The IPE Global, an international agency with expertise in the field, would be involved in the exercise.

Coastal management has been a huge challenge for the state government with rampant sea erosion posing a threat to many settlements, especially in Kendrapara district. While people at villages such as Pentha and Satabhaya in Kendrapara continue to spend sleepless nights with the marauding sea eating up land, erosion has also been witnessed in around 10 villages at Talsari in Balasore district. Parts of the costal stretch along Puri, Konark, Berhampur and Gopalpur are also at risk.

Bapuni Patra, a villager of Handipada in Balasore district, said sea erosion posed a threat to farming in the area. However, the situation had gradually improved with the administration making stone embankments to contain erosion at their village.

Though an attempt was made to check erosion at Pentha by building a geo-synthetic tube wall at the village, the success of the World Bank-funded project remains a matter of debate. Even as the integrated coastal project was being carried out, one of these sand-filled tubes, made of geo-textile fabric, cracked open putting a question mark on the efficacy of the technology.

Geosynthetics are synthetic products used to stabilise terrain.

They are generally polymeric products used to solve civil engineering problems.

Former environment director Bhagirathi Behera expressed concern over the growing phenomenon of coastal erosion and underscored the need to tackle it on an urgent basis. "This problem needs to be addressed immediately irrespective of the challenge it poses. It also impacts the issue of coastal livelihood in a major way," said Behera.

The threat from the sea was perhaps the worst in 2007 when cases of erosion were reported from coastal stretches in Puri, Gopalpur and Pentha. Increasing roughness of the sea was attributed to a number of factors, including enhanced wave energy caused by tectonic movements.

With tidal waves hitting the coast with ever increasing force, salt-water inundation poses a major threat to farming in parts of Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts. Sources said the tidal surges in these districts inundate more than 4,000 acres of farmland every year. The phenomenon has also been a cause of worry for the local fishermen, whose livelihood the proposed integrated shoreline management plan would seek to protect.

While saline inundation has been rendering farmland near the sea unusable for farming, fishermen are wary of venturing into the sea. Even their settlements are under threat. K. Alaya, a fisherman from Sanaarjapalli village in Ganjam, said that if erosion continued soon they would have to move out of the area. "We are living on the edge and don't even go out for fishing infrequently these days," said Alaya.