More levees are not a solution to control marine erosion, warn experts | Latest India News

During the monsoon season this year, three coastal districts of Karnataka received 2504.4 mm of rain, which is above average for this time of year. The heavy rains were followed by flooding and, in some areas, sea erosion.

The government was quick to announce a new project to tackle the problem of erosion. The announcement came even Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai admitted that the large funds spent on these projects have been ineffective.

The projects that the Chief Minister described as ineffective were mainly related to the construction of dykes. Since 2010, as part of an Asian Development Bank project, 160 crores was spent on the construction of the sea wall.

Two reefs over an area of ​​200 meters for 110 crores and 10 burns for 30 crores are installed at the boundaries of Uchila Battapadi. Dykes already cover between 10% and 15% of the Karnataka coastline.

The port department has put huge black stones to prevent the sea from washing away the houses built by the sea. However, the problems during the monsoon continue.

According to a status report from the National Coastal Research Center of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, 22% of Karnataka’s coastline is eroding, while 48% was in stable condition. The results were based on an analysis of the coastline between 1990 and 2016. Illegal constructions in the CRZ area and the encroachment of rivers and seas have increased the intensity of marine erosion. Ullal, Someshwara and Ucchila are prone to sea erosion. Every year, more than 20 houses are washed away by the sea.

Another research paper in 2019 – “Long Term Coastal Erosion Assessment along Karnataka Coast, West Coast of India” – noted that between 1990 and 2016 there was severe erosion at Ullal, who had been losing land at 1.3 meters per year. “Anthropogenic activities such as harbours, seawalls, breakwaters, etc., and natural processes such as longshore drift, seasonal variations, etc. are factors affecting shoreline change along the coast of Karnataka,” the document notes.

A recent analysis noted that due to sea level rise, key infrastructure in many coastal cities, including Mangalore, could be submerged.

While it is clear that it is time to act, the government is unable to think beyond the physical structure of the sea. Even though experts have told the government that the levees, rocks falling into the water and similar methods do not provide a permanent solution to the problem, the latest government proposal is to build breakwaters, which is another form of physical obstruction in the sea.

“Experts have recommended breakwater technology to prevent marine erosion. It was decided to implement the technology as a permanent measure to prevent marine erosion,” Bommai said while announcing the government’s proposal to tackle the erosion problem.

“Thanks to the AfDB, we have spent close to 300 crores. We can’t let it go to waste. We will investigate the shortcomings and take necessary action,” he added.

Speaking about the government’s proposal, VN Naik, a retired marine biologist and resident of Karwar, said the idea of ​​having a physical structure in the sea would only make the situation worse.

“Erosion and accretion are natural to the sea. It happens every year, the sea comes in and when the monsoon ends, the shoreline is also reclaimed naturally. If you look at the records, no life was lost because of erosion. The problem is shoreline encroachment and the biggest culprit of the problem is tourism,” Nayak said.

According to him, instead of tackling the fundamental problem of encroachment and facilitating relocation to avoid material damage, the government is focusing on the levees.

“If you build a structure in the water, it just moves the erosion to another beach. It doesn’t solve the problem. turtle population and would not allow the fishing community to pull their nets out of the sea,” he said.

Prakash Mesta, a marine biologist based in Honnavar, said that by comparing the maps of the coastal region of Karnataka made during the British era and the current maps of the coastline, one can see that marine erosion has claimed the shoreline, i.e. areas with a survey number currently underwater. , are just two locations.

“This indicates that the natural process has not claimed any of our coasts. Now when they throw rocks into the water or create a wall, what we have seen is that over time they are absorbed by the seabed and that makes the problem even worse. The government spent a lot of money on that, which literally went down the drain,” he said.

Mesta further added that the biggest problem in the state’s solution to marine erosion is the lack of experts. “We don’t have marine engineers. This work is carried out by the civil engineers of the governmental apparatus, experts in the construction of reservoirs. Despite a wide coastline, none of the engineering schools teach this subject,” he pointed out.

Nayak said that in all the plans proposed by the government so far to combat sea erosion, experts living in the region and the fishing community have not been consulted.

A senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the levees are also a political tool. “The fishing castes are an important political force in the coastal belt. These communities form an important bank of votes for the two main political parties that have won the elections in the region. For the electoral base, the concrete structure is more visible as government undertaking work than doing more scientific work which will not have visible structures,” he said.

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