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Ashutosh Mishra

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Recently a portion of the geo-synthetic tube wall erected at Kendrapara’s Pentha village to combat sea erosion was damaged in a fire. Media reports suggest that 30 gabion boxes of the wall that is made up of water-permeable geo-textile tubes filled with sand slurry were gutted in the mishap.

This is the second time the wall has sustained damage in a fire which is believed to be the handiwork of local miscreants. The structure that came up in 2016 at a cost of around Rs.39 crore has been accident-prone right from the beginning. While one of the geo-tubes being used for its construction had burst while the work was under progress a portion of the wall got washed away during cyclone Titli.

Constant pounding by waves has weakened the 600-metre wall considerably necessitating periodical repairs which is a costly affair that involves technical expertise. Given this backdrop, geo-tube walls do not appear to be a viable solution to the problem of sea erosion even though the menace has assumed alarming proportions in the state.

The present wall at Pentha was a pilot project executed under the World Bank-sponsored Integrated Coastal Zone Management programme. It was an experiment to test the efficacy of the geotextile tube technique in fighting the menace of sea erosion in Odisha’s typical coastal environment.

Replication of the technique in other parts of the state facing similar threats depended mainly on two factors—one its effectiveness and the other its cost. While the cost is high, if not exactly prohibitive, for a cash-strapped state like Odisha now the utility of this method is also under the scanner. Given the kind of problems the structure at Pentha has encountered during the three years of existence, it does not look worth the money.

The state then has to explore other options which would be efficient and cost-effective at the same time. Finding such a solution has become imperative as the problem of erosion continues to assume dangerous proportions with the sea increasingly getting rough all along the coastline. Growing sea turbulence means high wave energy which is bound to intensify erosion.

Sea has been eating into the landmass in several other parts of the state. The situation had turned so grave at Kendrapara’s Satbhaya village that its residents had to be relocated along with their presiding deity, Panchuvarahi sometime ago. Sea waves had also played havoc in Puri a few years ago, breaching the road running along the town’s famous beach. The problem is also acute at some placers along the Ganjam coast.

Statistics show that more than 36 per cent of the state’s 480 km coastline is facing the threat of erosion with the problem most acute in the districts of Kendrapara, Ganjam and Puri. Natural disasters like cyclones sometimes aggravate the situation by making the sea rougher. Hence it has become imperative for the state government to step up its war against erosion. It must come up with effective and affordable technology to fight this menace as soon as possible.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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