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Kerala Announces Rs 344 cr Coastal Protection Project for Chellanam

Azhar Moideen |
The coastal village is frequently flooded due to increasing sea erosion.

As part of the Kerala government’s efforts to protect the 630 km coastal line from sea erosion, state water resources minister Roshy Augustine announced a Rs 344.2 crore comprehensive project at Chelllanam Bazaar on Monday.

The announcement comes a month after the state government gave administrative sanction to the project and Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board, a financial institution set up by the state to mobilise funds for infrastructure development, had cleared its funding. Kerala Irrigation Infrastructure Development Corporation will be the special purpose vehicle for implementing the project. The tendering process will begin on September 15 and be completed by November.

Under the coastal protection project, the severely damaged seawall on the 10-km stretch between control point (CP) 976 and 1052, near the Chellanam fishing harbour, will be rebuilt using geotextile bags with sand, granite boulders and tetrapods for Rs 254.2 crore. The rebuilt seawall will have a height of 5.5 metre and a width of 24 metre. Besides, a gryone between Bazaar CP stone 997 and Kannamaly CP stone 1020 will be constructed. The project also aims to retrieve the beach using 2.35 million cubic metres of sand between the breakwaters off the Kannamaly coastal suburb at a cost of Rs 90 crore.

Augustine said that Rs 1,500 crore has been set aside for this work, part of the project’s first phase, which will cover 10 hotspots identified by the state government along the state's coastline. The government plans to spend Rs 5,300 crore over the next five years to protect Kerala’s coast, he added.

Sea Erosion and Flooding in Chellanam

Chellanam, located 18 km south of Kochi Port, is primarily a fishing village with more the 3,000 households and a high population density of 1,838 persons per sq km, around 75 per cent of whom are Latin Christians. The village is also famous for its pokkali farming, in which paddy cultivation alternates with shrimp farming.

A giant seawall had been constructed in the area using huge boulders in the late 1970s and early ’80s to prevent erosion. However, erosion aggravated following the construction of the Kochi Port in 1928, severely damaging the seawall. Consequently, the village gets flooded frequently.

The problem was exacerbated during Cyclone Ockhi in 2017 and Cyclone Tauktae earlier this year, which caused widespread destruction of houses and other property, forcing hundreds of villagers to seek refuge in relief camps set up at nearby schools. The villagers live in constant fear due to the problem of frequent flooding.

Coastal Protection Project

The project was one of the earliest decisions taken by the current Left Democratic Front (LDF) government as part of its 100-day programme following its election victory in May. The project was conceived in consultation with the National Centre for Coastal Research, Chennai.

The previous LDF government had constructed a Rs 50 crore modern fishing harbour and also announced a rehabilitation project named Punargeham for villagers who wanted to relocate. However, the terms and conditions of the rehabilitation project were opposed by many villages who depend on the sea for their livelihood.

Minister for industries P Rajeeve, who presided over the function at Chellanam Bazaar, one of the worst-affected areas in the village, said that the hardships faced by the villagers demand a permanent solution. Chellanam has been given the priority in the coastal protection project considering the serious nature of the problems there. The construction of protective structures and beach nourishment would also turn the village into a tourist destination, he added.

The execution of the project will be overseen by a monitoring committee headed by Rajeeve and a technical committee will be presided over by Coastal Area Development Corporation managing director Sheik Pareeth.

Chellanam-Kochi JanakeeyaVedhi, a group of residents and activists demanding the protection of the eroding coastline, has welcomed the project. Saude and Manassery, near Fort Kochi, are also facing the threat of sea erosion and should be included in the project, they said.

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