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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Greens cry foul over new Puducherry harbour

Environmental activists, farmers and NGOs have raised serious concerns over the construction of a fish-landing facility in Murthikuppam hamlet near here. They say the project will trigger erosion along the coast and adversely affect the livelihood of the coastal population.

Activists and NGOs under the banner Alliance for Good Governance have submitted a memorandum to Union minister for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh and Puducherry Lt. Governor Iqbal Singh, urging that the construction of the new harbour be stopped. Puducherry harbour, constructed by the port department in 1989, has already destroyed the coastline north of the harbour including many villages in Villupuram district in Tamil Nadu.

“The project affected the livelihood of over 7,000 families and the coast has become vulnerable to cyclones and tsunamis. Instead of tackling the problem, the Puducherry government is now constructing another harbour in Murthikuppam, which will destroy what remains of the Union Territory’s coastline,” PondyCAN member Probir Banerjee told Deccan Chronicle. “The project is a man-made disaster in the making.”

Another fallout of the new harbour, environmentalists note, will be accretion of sand in the south which will block the mouth of Pennayar River and cause flooding of the area. The proposed project includes dredging in the mouth of Mullodai Canal and construction of two breakwaters to reduce the accumulation of sand in the canal mouth.

The environmentalists say the PWD has taken up construction of the harbour under the false claim that during the tsunami on December 26, 2004, the mouth of the link canal was blocked with sand dunes, preventing fishermen from bringing in their boats to safety. However, Survey of India maps show sand dunes separating Mullodai Canal from the sea. Environmentalists claim the village was saved during tsunami due to the presence of the sand dunes. While hundreds died in Cuddalore district 2 km south of this village, no major damage was reported in Murthikuppam.

“PWD officials are making false claims that the construction will not cause any erosion even though they know that large chunks of land on the Puducherry-Tamil Nadu coastline are being gobbled up by the sea every year due to the present harbour at Thengaithittu,” an activist said.

“If the sand dunes are destroyed, villages on the coastline will be more vulnerable when cyclones and tsunamis strike.” When contacted, a senior PWD official pointed out that Environment Impact Assessment had not been conducted for the project as work only involved removing the blockage. “There will be no erosion due to construction of the harbour,” he maintained.

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