Coastal embankment gives way to tidal waves

Kendrapara: Battered by mighty sea waves, a four-decade-old coastal embankment near seaside Pentha village has caved in, exposing large chunks in Rajnagar block headquarters to tidal ingress.

"Sea waves smashed portions of the old embankment at Pentha and about 500 metre embankment wall is broken up. However, another protective embankment put in place about 50 metres from the erosion-hit embankment is safe," Executive Engineer, Saline Embankment Division, Kendrapara, Jugal Kishore Tripathy said.

"There is wide gap between the damaged old embankment and the 700 metre long new embankment. The advancing seawater has formed an artificial lagoon between the two. But the new one is protected. There is no immediate cause for alarm," he said.

Engineers are at the spot monitoring the work to save the portions of embankment that is still intact with temporary measures like stocking sand-bag and installing bamboo poles at the old embankment are underway, the official said.

As many as six villages near Pentha were eaten up by sea in cataclysmic 1971 cyclonic waves when the 1,200 population from Jaudia, Gohipur, Ichapur, Baunsagada, Goladiha and Sasana were washed away.

The villages like Pentha, Endulasahi, Prasanapur, Sundaripala and Khandamara under Brahmanasahi gram panchayat had escaped the 1971 cyclonic devastation. But the safety of these villagers is now at stake as intensity of sea erosion is alarming and frightening, another official said.

The World Bank-funded geo-tube buffer to arrest sea erosion has failed to kick-start in these areas.
Besides Satabhaya coast, the scourge of sea erosion is equally pronounced along the Pentha shoreline.

In the event of the new embankment caving in, the sea would sprint towards thickly populated human settlements and the Rajnagar block headquarters. "The state government is insensitive towards the plight of the local people. Sea erosion has assumed alarming proportions in recent past. A number of populated human settlements face the threat of being devoured by sea," charged Gyanadev Beura, district wing president of Bharatiya Janata Party.

To stop the advancing sea, the embankment strengthening project geo-tube technology had been planned five years back, but things have not moved an inch, he claimed. "Temporary works like sand-bag stockpiling are no remedy to checkmate the mighty sea," said Narottam Samal, a local from vulnerable Brahmanasahi village.

The Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai has already submitted the technical modalities report of the project. "We are hopeful of commencement of work for the Rs 18.05 crore World Bank funded project in August next. An MoU has been signed between the state water resources department and World Bank," executive engineer Tripathy said.

The Chilika Development Authority is acting as the nodal agency for successful implementation of state`s first geo-tube sea wall project, Tripathy informed. The embankment project that comes under forest area was envisaged in 2007 as part of Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan (ICZMP). MOEF recently accorded clearance to the project.

The geo-tubes would be placed on the 700 metre long new retard embankment at Pentha. The sand filled rexin bags would act as protective barrier against tidal waves, according to technical experts in saline embankment division.