Admitting that environment destruction caused by Vizhinjam Port cannot be ignored and that frequent erosion was an aftermath of the port construction, Kerala Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma said that one has to find solutions to the whole issue at the earliest.
“Earlier it was thought that Vizhinjam port will not have any impact on the environment. But the recent happenings only point to the fact that the construction has repercussions. We have been seeing its impact. In the last many days, we have seen an increase in erosions,” she said in Thiruvananthapuram while addressing a seminar on Coastal Erosion- reasons and Solutions.
This is for the first time that a minister in the state has publically admitted that construction of Vizhinjam port has its adverse impact. The fishermen community along with a few environmentalists have been raising the allegation that the recent spurt in erosion was because of the construction of breakwaters at Vizhinjam.
Noting that the environmental impact of the construction cannot be ignored, she said that the breakwater at Vizhinjam is to be about 3.1 kms and now only 600 metres have been completed. “With just 600 meters of breakwater, we have already witnessed high waves and the sea eating up the shore,” she said.
Mentioning that one cannot stay away from developments works, Mercykutty Amma said that one should have to find ways to overcome such destructions in the future. She also mentioned the erosion at Chellanam in Kochi, which she said was caused because of dredging at Kochi port. “We cannot stop dredging at Kochi port but what we can do is to find ways to tackle the erosion at chellanam,” she told the seminar.
“The government is for finding a permanent solution to erosion. There are permanent solutions but would take some time for it to be implemented,’ she said. The minister also mentioned that a French agency had approached the government in constructing sea wall that could stand for very long years. “The French company approached us and said that they could construct sea wall that could last for about 40 years. We asked them to first construct a one km sea wall at Thottapally at their own cost and if it is a success, then their technology could be adopted in the state,” she said.
With respect to rehabilitation, Mercykutty Amma said that the government from the beginning had taken a firm decision regarding the safety of the people living in the coastal regions. “Every year we face erosion. The government from day one had thought of finding a permanent solution to the issues related to erosion. The flats at Muttathara are an initiative of the government in this regard,” she said.
Stressing that the government was for rehabilitating all the families living within 50 metre from the sea, Mercykutty Amma said that 18686 families has to be rehabilitated from 50 metre as per records. “We are aware that all these cannot be done all of a sudden but would take time. We hope that the rehabilitation could be completed within ten years,” she said.
National Fish Workers Forum general secretary T Peter told the seminar that all the coats in the state had different characters and any construction in the coastal region or building sea protection should only be done taking into account the nature of the region. “It is not that construction or rehabilitation or any other activity should be done at the behest of an official. But all these activities should be done only taking into account the opinion of experts in the field and also the traditional knowledge of fishermen,” he said.
Disaster management former director K G Thara opined that any construction that was not suited to the coast would only reverberate. She also said that geotubes or geotextiles were also not practical solution as these have found to be a failure in goa and in some other places. She also stressed that breakwater construction of vizhinjam had started to show its affects in the coastal regions, with erosion happening very frequently.