The Story of Pondicherry’s Eroding Coastline in a Single Image

Erosion of the Pondicherry beach and coast caused by construction of the harbour

For two decades, the Government of Pondicherry has watched as the town’s beautiful sand beach disappeared and fishing villages fell into the sea. Not until Beach Road, the town’s famous promenade, began subsiding did the government take action — and, naturally, it took the wrong action.

Rather than breaking the harbour which is causing the erosion, the governement began an expensive and futile program of “fortifying” the shoreline with heavy boulders. This battle cannot be won with rocks. Indeed, hard-structures like seawalls and groynes exacerbate and accelerate the devastation. The erosive force of the sea can only be passified by the restoration of the sandy beach, the crucial buffer between sea and land.

Look at the photo above. Is there any question of what is causing our coastline to erode?

Why does the Government of Pondicherry preserve the barely-utilized harbour when it is causing such widespread destruction of our precious coastline? Because they are angling to build a new deep-water port at the same location — a project that would be twenty times larger, more destructive, and more economically useless than the existing harbour. To destroy the existing breakwater would not only be an admission of failures past; it would be a concession that the corruption-nourished port plan will entail environmental devastation.

The solution is simple; but it seems our politicians are simpler still.


7 Responses to “The Story of Pondicherry’s Eroding Coastline in a Single Image”

  1. 1 narendra shenoy 18 October 2008 at 6:28 am

    How is it that the villagers are silent about this? This merits some concerted action.

  2. 2 mbjesq 19 October 2008 at 2:32 am


    Their villages are being decimated, their beaches are gone, and safe places for them to launch their fishing boats are few-and-far-between. You would expect them to be clamoring for action — and indeed they are, but the wrong kind of action, naturally. They want the government to dump more rocks.

    In a way, you cannot blame them. They are not coastal geomorphologists or otherwise sophisticated in matters of science and engineering. We have told them that he rocks will not bring their beach back or provide them a safe place from which to fish. We’ve explained why groynes will cause further erosion up the coastline and why seawalls will cause their drinking water to become saline. They listen; and on one level they full comprehend our message. But their intellectual response is nullified by the fact that the politicians are seen to be fortifying their part of Pondicherry, the town, with big, heavy, expensive boulders — so they figure that must be the right way. And competitive jealousies are also at work: if you get to have rocks, then we want to have rocks too. It’s a case of stupidity breeding stupidity.

    So we have a big educational task if we are properly mobilize the fishing villages againt this threat to their survival. The tough part is that reason alone is not effective; and we’ve yet to find an effective trope.



  3. 3 Donna 19 October 2008 at 7:37 am

    Your graphic clearly illustrates what the problem is. It certainly doesn’t require a geomorphologist to understand. My worry would be once the rocks go away that the same folks that somehow weren’t able to figure out that pile of rocks = less beach and lousy water on their own would think a fast one had been pulled on them when neither beach nor water improved instantly. In that regard, your educational task is a tough one indeed.

  4. 4 Lakshmi Mareddy 14 November 2008 at 9:07 am

    You need a movie star to lobby. Anything lessening such as reason and common sense will fail in this scenario…

  5. 5 jo 3 February 2009 at 5:43 am

    M. Can you supply an update on this. Is there no success comparisons from elsewhere you can use to nudge the villagers in the right direction?

  6. 6 Quinlan 6 April 2009 at 1:39 am


    This is really tragic, hope they eventually wise up..

    My wife and I are currently living in Tokyo but we’re looking very seriously into moving to Pondicherry for a few years. (We work from home so could continue our current jobs anywhere with an internet connection.) I wonder if I could trouble you to ask a couple of basic questions about moving to Pondicherry and getting a flat. If you wouldn’t mind helping me out briefly, send me an email saying so and I’ll email you the questions. Thanks!

    Best regards,


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