India’s Dying Beaches

I almost feel as though I am in Pondicherry.  The vicarious excitement and stress of trying to keep up with the sudden barrage of media stories and activities initiated by NDTV’s coverage of “The Death of India’s Beaches” has my adrenelin pumping as I try and support our colleagues at PondyCAN.

On 28 May, 2009, Probir Banerjee, PondyCAN’s President, was interviewed by Prannoy Roy of NDTV, fulfilling a promise Roy made months before to take up the issue of coastal erosion.  Realizing the magnitude of the problem, Roy initiated a state-by-state coverage of the issue in a series called “India’s Dying Beaches.”

The first report in the series, called “Coastal Chennai Losing Homes to Sea” featured the growth of Marina Beach, south of the Port of Chennai, at the expense of the beaches north of the port – a story all too familiar to us in Pondicherry –  destruction of homes, loss of livelihoods for the coastal communities, salination of ground water and former agricultural land…

The second report, “Sea Claims Orissa Villages,” is also familiar – more villages  “gobbled up” by the sea north of the Paradeep Port, the proposed development of 11 more ports, and government officials saying there is no reason for worry:

“Wherever there is little effect, for the progress of the State, we are also taking steps and measures to  protect the people and and protect the sea-shore by plantations, by rehabilitation.” Bhagirathi Behera, Director, Environment, Orissa.

The third report, “Concrete Killing Kovalam Beach,” was new information.  Kovalam Beach is one of Kerala’s most famous beaches.  It is heart-breaking to see that in three years, illegal sand mining and construction right on the beach has caused such massive damage.  Over 65% of Kerala’s coastline (386 kilometres out of 591) is now covered with rocks instead of sand.

The fourth report, “Gujarat’s Mangroves Under Threat,” got my blood boiling all over again.  I should be used to this – the government “selling” 60 kilometres of coastline at Mundra to the Adani Group for the largest private port and Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in India, effectively putting 10,000 fisherfolk out of work; the Coastal Regulation Zone, adopted in 1989, weakened by 21 ammendments; the environmental clearance authority for ports transfered from the Ministry of Environment and Forests to the Ministry of Surface Transport and Shipping…  WHAT?!?  This I can’t believe!

NDTV has also started an online petition to Save India’s Beaches.  If you haven’t  already signed, please do.  And if you are in India, you can SMS “Beach.Your Name.Your Town.” to 56388.  Please sign or SMS before this Sunday, when NDTV will conclude their series and present the signatures to government officials.

I wonder what the reports from Goa and Maharashtra will reveal…

[Note:  To see all the shows to date, please check the PondyCAN site on YouTube.]


1 Response to “India’s Dying Beaches”

  1. 1 Smita June 16, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Thanks, Yoo-Mi, for pulling this all together in such a coherent way.

    We’ve been watching the NDTV coverage with sinking stomachs and rising blood pressure.

    We’ve just added our names to the petition, but were dismayed to see that of the millions of people in this country, they’ve only managed to get 3650 people to sign the online petition so far 😦

    I guess it’s time to start hitting the forward button.

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