Fishermen find fault with Groynes in saving the shores

By Anupama Vimal

Whenever black clouds hover over the skies of Valiyathura in Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala), Thresyama stretches her hands to the almighty, praying that the waves do not touch her house that stands close to the shore.

About five years ago her house stood about 500 metres from the shore and now hardly 10 meters. Despite having groynes erected on the shore, the shore near her home could not be saved from being eroded.

The entire shore line had been washed away in the last many years of sea erosion. The sea wall or groynes built for the protection of the shore is said to have brought in more harm to her and others in Valiyathura, who fear of losing their house in the high waves.

Pic by Sreekesh Raveendran

With sea erosion in the previous days on the shores and the threat of Cyclone Fani, the people living in the coastline are a worried lot. They fear that the Groynes erected on the shores will never help them but cause more damage. They say that it was quite evident from the last many years when the sea had eroded the shore at times of the Monsoons and even in low waves.

The fishermen and others point out that mismanagement and unscientific method of erecting sea walls have led to the erosion of the coastal stretch. Reports have come out that groynes, sea walls and breakwater had disturbed the equilibrium of the flow of currents. In other words, the littoral flow of the current near to the shore has been tampered that has led to the erosion of the sand on the northern side of any structure. When there was a vast stretch of shore, the sand that is washed away is deposited back that has strengthened the shores.

But now, unscientific ways have led to only eroding the sands but not depositing back, studies show.

Pic by Sreekesh Raveendran

Pointing out that the government did not have any scientific approach towards protection of the shores, National Fish Workers Forum General Secretary T Peter opined that the unscientific construction of groynes has led to vast erosion in the last many years. He also alleged that the construction of Groynes for the Vizhinjam International Transhipment terminal has added to the woes of the fishermen with sea erosion happening frequently even when there is a slight disturbance in the sea.
“Earlier such a phenomenon could not be seen. One example is Shanghumugham where there was a long shoreline. Now where can one see the beach here? This has happened in Bimapally region also. In the coming years, the state would have no beaches if the unscientific way of construction groynes continues,” he said and added that a small change in the sea could be alarming as the sea erosion can be expected.

“Though we all know that construction of groynes for the Vizhinjam port and also building such walls in other regions are a cause of sea erosion, no government is going to say that. They will only say that all the construction is for protecting the people on the shores, he told kadapuram.com.

When asked about the IIT Madras study on construction of groynes for the safety of the shores, Peter said that the fishermen community did not believe in the IIT study. He also mentioned any construction on the shore would have to be done taking into account the traditional knowledge of fishermen also.

The people in and around Vizhinjam and Valiyathura fishing hamlets say that construction of Vizhinjam International Transhipment terminal and the unscientific way of lying groynes has accelerated erosion in the region. In other regions, the fishermen say that the groynes that were laid in an unscientific way had led to erosion.

A recent report of the National Centre for Coastal Research said that one third of the country’s coastline has been eroded in the last 25 years. It says that Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and Puduchery had witnessed about 40 per cent of erosion.

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