Fear of beach erosion grips fishermen

Berhampur: With south-west monsoon advancing in Orissa, fear of beach erosion has gripped many fishermen living in coastal villages in Ganjam district.

Several villages in the coastal belt in the district have been identified as vulnerable to erosion. Fear is clear among villagers of Sana Arjeepalli, Bada Arjeepalli, Katuru, Kandara Arjeepalli, Gokharakuda and Podampeta when high tidal waves come close to their villages.

"We are living in constant fear as sea water is approaching our villages," said K Alleya, Sarapanch of Arjeepalli gram panchayat. "The sea is coming close to our villages because of the construction of Gopalpur Port and no remedial measures are taken by the government," he said.

"The worries of the residents of the coastal area had gone up as there were no remedial measures taken up neither by the port authorities or by the state government, even though a technical team visited the area to suggest the remedial measures," the Sarapanch said.

As many as 28 villages are located in the 60-km long coastal belt in Ganjam district and at least seven villages of them are facing the threat from the Bay of Bengal due to the rapid beach erosion.

Gopalpur Port authorities, however, denied the allegation on the beach erosion was taking place due to the construction of the port in side the sea.

"It?s not true," said an official. He said the port authorities have decided to construct at least eight stone protectors in eight different places of the coastal belt, starting from Arjeepalli to river Rushikuya mouth with an investment of Rs 27-crore, he said.

Alleya who is also the Chairman of Upakula Surakhya Samiti, an organisation formed to spearhead agitation for the cause, alleged that the World Bank funded Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP) was also not initiated steps to protect the beach from the rapid erosion.

"Beach protection was the main objective of the project, but the project authorities in the state have not taken any concrete step to protect the beach, when people of the coastal belt are in grip of fear," he alleged.

He demanded construction of guard wall from Arjeepalli to the mouth of river for protection of the beach from the sea erosion.

He also threatened that the villagers would be forced to intensify agitation if no immediate step taken to protect their lives and livelihoods.