The Hindu , 17 July 2006

Angry sea continues to batter coastal areas

Thiruvananthapuram: The Revenue Department has initiated steps to investigate reports of illegal extraction of beach sand from the coastal areas in the city, as the angry sea continued its destructive march across the shoreline on Sunday.

Scientists confirmed that Thiruvananthapuram coast is facing the worst erosion in the last 25 years.

The district administration has opened three relief camps in the coastal areas to house about 600 people who lost their houses to the fury of the waves. As many as 26 houses were washed away by the strong tidal action and seawalls were damaged at several places. About 200 coconut trees were uprooted by the waves at Shanghumughom and Thumba.

Data recorded at the Centre for Earth Science Studies here shows that the Thiruvananthapuram coast is facing the worst erosion since 1980. "This is interesting because, excepting a few pockets such as Poonthura and Beemapally, this stretch of the coast was considered the most stable in the State," says M. Baba, director, CESS.

While the heightened monsoon activity could have aggravated tidal action, scientists point out that large-scale extraction of sand from the beaches at Thumba and Veli is the primary cause for the intensified coastal erosion.

"Sand acts as an effective cushion to absorb the impact of the waves. Deprived of this buffer, the shoreline is vulnerable to the invading sea. Seawalls also break down if there is no beach on the seaward side. The severe erosion in the Thumba and Veli areas and the damage to the big seawalls at Panathura, Poonthura and Beemapally show the extent of the problem," says Dr. Baba.

Fishermen confirm that large stretches of the beaches in the city are being relentlessly mined for sand but they are helpless to check the activity. In several areas, the beaches are pockmarked with deep pits left behind after sand is extracted. Revenue officials said they had received reports of beach sand mining in the Pallithura area. Village Officers are being asked to investigate the reports. The Veli inlet is another area that is being heavily mined.

The saline sand removed from beaches is favoured as a foundation-filling material for buildings because it repels termites and rodents.

"Removal of beach sand is prohibited under the CRZ norms. It is well within the powers of the district administration to crack down on the illegal activity," says Dr. Baba.

Scientists point out that indiscriminate sand-mining from the Neyyar and Karamana rivers has contributed to the depletion of beach sand. The sand resources are carried down through the rivers and enter the sea through estuaries, from where they are transported by the along-shore current and distributed throughout the coast.Meanwhile, the Water Resource Department has started round-the-clock operations to repair the damaged seawalls at Kannanthura, Valiaveli, Thumba and Beemapally using granite blocks. Efforts are on shore up the vulnerable beaches with sandbags. Revenue Divisional Officer K.V. Mohankumar; Thiruvananthapuram Tahsildar Mohanan Pillai and other Revenue officials visited the coastal areas.

The Revenue Department has made arrangements to provide free food and medical assistance for the inmates of the three relief camps at St. Roches Convent, Shanghumughom, St. Thomas LPS, Kochuveli and St.Thomas LPS, Valiaveli. Water tanks have been installed at the camps.