Pondicherry’s Sandy Beaches Imperiled by New Port Development


Study the photos above. In less than two decades — and it may have been much more rapid than that — Pondicherry’s beautiful sandy beach along the the main promenade of the town has completely disappeared, leaving a rough coastline of riprap boulders, brought in with heavy equipment to staunch further erosion.

What happeed to the gorgeous beach front? It eroded away, largely as a function of breakwaters (stone jetties that protrude into the sea to arrest wave action), which were built between 1986 and 1989 at the harbour entrance where the Ariyankuppam River joins the sea.

And now the Government of Pondicherry is planning to compound the damage.

Fighting Nature, Stupidly

The breakwaters essentially act like a dam, blocking the waves as well as the sand that flows from South to North along seashore.

Thus, on the southern side of the harbour, near Veerampattinam, a lot of sand has accumulated and a huge artificial beach has been involuntarily created. But to the North of the harbour, sand is being washed away by the waves and the currents, and as the sand from the South cannot flow anymore to the North, the beaches to the North have completely eroded away.

Before building the new harbor at the Ariyankuppam River mouth, the Pondicherry Government knew that the breakwaters would cause erosion to the North. This is a well studied, fundamental geological principal, perhaps best illustrated by the accelerated depletion of sand from the once-famous vacation destination of the New Jersey shore in the United States, caused by the building of simmilar breakwaters.

To prevent erosion of the beaches to the North of the harbor, a complex system was designed and put in place to artificially dredge the sand and pump over the breakwater to the North. What was once done by nature, must now be done — inefficiently and ineffectively — by machine.

20 years after the harbor was built, millions of cubic meters of sand have been washed away and lost as a result of this man-made erosion. More than 7 kilometers of the coastline has suffered extensive damage due to erosion. That erosion that has been advancing to the north at a pace of 350 meters per year, and is accelerating with time.

Repeating Past Errors, Threatening Environmental Tragedy

The Pondicherry Government has now embarked on a project to enlarge the Pondicherry Port in a ten-fold expansion. This project will not only denude Pondicherry’s remaining beach sands through erosion after construction, during construction approximately 10 million cubic meters of sea sand will be physically moved to within the new port area.

This project, like so many in India, is in the hands of a private contractor, Pondicherry Port Limited (jointly owned by Subhash Projects and Marketing Ltd and Om Metals) and is receiving quiet rubber-stamping by the government. PPL’s project proposal evinces neither future accountability for the impending ecological disaster, nor much concern about it. The Environmental Impact Report describes the patterns wave action and sand migration in the section entitled “Baseline Environmental Conditions” (section 1.4) but makes no mention of the certain sand erosion or even fanciful mitigation strategies in the subsequent sections entitled “Screening of Potential Impacts” (section 1.5) and “Environmental Management Plan” (section 1.6).

If one needed any evidence that this is a sweetheart deal between the Pondicherry Government and the developer, consider the speed with which the government is hustling the superficial Environmental Impact Report through the approval process. Opponents of the project were given less than a week to prepare objections, and the hearing is scheduled for 14 February.

Citizen Action

Notwithstanding the government’s efforts to push this project through without notice, a group of concerned citizens have challenged the project and provided thoughtful comment, on the Environmental Impact Report even within the unreasonable time strictures. They have crafted a thoughtful objection to the report and the project.

If the government of Pondicherry is successful in closing this deal for its developer-friends, the devastation to Pondicherry’s remaining beaches is assured. Please lend your voice in opposition to this project. An action plan will be posted on the Save Our Beach blog shortly.

4 Responses to “Pondicherry’s Sandy Beaches Imperiled by New Port Development”

  1. 1 tina 24 March 2007 at 4:02 pm

    i am very upset afer hearing abt this project
    infact it will eradicate the peace thatz prevalent in our town.i am so worried abt it. pls do something to stop it.we are not supposed to fight against our nature we wont have the power tio wthstand its attack
    i dont know wht to do
    i am a pondicherrian and is there anything that i can do to save my place pls suggest.

  2. 3 Elisa 16 June 2007 at 12:57 pm

    Thanks bro! Real good work! Visit my sites, please:

  3. 4 niranjan 16 June 2007 at 1:03 pm

    the government do not know about the impacts of the new harbour port construction. Already we had lost our beach, nw we will lose our pondicherry city also if this government will construct that port. Thengathitu, is a wet land, which paly an important role for our city. this place act as a buffer zone, which absorbs the high nutrient effluents from the sewage, filtered it and mixed in the sea, and also sand dunes, mangroves etc., which marine fauna hatching the egg and larvae., play an important role in the ecosystem. If they built the port here, we should have lost. So, we should vulnerably against for this port construction, and also the government should try to stop this project development.

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