Experts fear failure at Pentha

Monalisa Patsani

Post News Network

Bhubaneswar: Environmentalists and other experts are questioning the feasibility of a project to lay a geo-synthetic tube wall to prevent coastal erosion in Pentha, Rajnagar block, Kendrapara.
The Pentha project is only the second such project undertaken in India. The first was implemented in Digha, West Bengal, in 2008 and covered 1km of coastline.
The Pentha project had resumed only recently after it was put on hold for technical reasons. The Rs32-crore project is part of World Bank-funded Integrated Coastal Zone Management Programme and was started in 2014.
According to experts, the project is likely to fail just as the ones tried out in Goa and Digha.
“Although geotube walls have failed in previous experiments Orissa government is still implementing it. And coastal erosion is not limited to Pentha. More than 20 villages along the 482 km coastline of the state are also living on the edge. People of Ramyapatna in Ganjam and Satabhaya in Kendrapara are facing the issue even now. Sea surge is also affecting beaches of Gopalpur and Puri,” Sudarshan Chhotray, an environmentalist and convener of Coast Council, said.
According to Chhotray, the best alternative to protect the coast from erosion would be sand dunes, mangrove forests and casuarina plantations. During the super cyclone of 1999, three out of seven villages in Satabhaya were saved from the sea only because of sand dunes and it is still protecting them. I don’t understand why the government is going for the costly option of geotube walls all along the coast,” he said.
Other environmentalists echo Chhotray. They claim that the sea has advanced about 3 km inland over the past many years. The beach at Pentha, which was a prime nesting ground for Olive Ridley turtles has almost disappeared. “The sea is now at the edge of the village. A forest, a creek and a road had existed between the village and the sea. Now they are all under water. During high tide, water enters the village and it is a constant threat. Seawater damages our crop and land,” Dadhibaman Sahoo, a 50-year-old farmer of Pentha, said.
He believes the geotube project will not be able to withstand the pressure of breakers. “These bags won’t be able to withstand the force of waves. Recently some geotubes had burst after which officials halted the project. We are not sure if it will work,” he added.
Dr Basudev Tripathy of Geological Survey of India, Kolkata, said: “Geotubes cannot last for more than 2 years. They will burst as they did in Digha. There is no guarantee the project will succeed in Orissa.”
According to sources, the company contracted for the Digha project is also executing the Pentha project.
The company has already placed 40 geotubes, each 20 metres long and 7.4 metres tall, and 221 geotubes in all are to cover 500 meter stretch of coast.
Sources said the project, 75 per cent of whose cost will be borne by the World Bank, 15 per cent by the central government and 10 per cent by the state government, is under way despite opposition from the forest department and National Wildlife Board. 
“The project is coming up in violation of law as the area is part of Bhitarkanika Sanctuary. Pentha was a nesting site for olive ridley turtles. The project is a waste of money as within 3-4 months of the launch of the project geotubes that were installed initially burst,” Biswajit Mohanty, secretary of Wildlife Society of Orissa, said.

For the past few decades, coastal erosion has been a major issue worrying geologists, environmentalists, and fishermen and other residents of coastal areas. According to available data, about 40 per cent of India’s coastline is affected by erosion.

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