Mangalore, August 1: Monsoon is active in coastal Karnataka and as usual the problem of sea erosion has cropped up in the coastal belt. Photographs of the mighty tidal waves washing away the shores and lashing at houses close by the shores, are adorning newspapers. The photographs feature not just the rough sea and the fury of nature, but also of our politicians visiting the spot to gain a first hand account of the problem. Their concern is natural. In fact they have been expressing concern over the problem since decades, but their promises have not been brought into action. The problem persists and continues to be a perennial one.
Several seminars and studies were conducted and recommendations made to solve the problem, but it is not yet sure if the various governments that ruled the state, over the years had and have the patience to go through the findings. As an eyewash, every year a few crores of rupees are released-to dump boulders to avert the problem temporarily. But, here too irregularities rule the roost, as there are many in the line waiting to fill their pockets through this boulder dumping business. It is already history that several had even flourished from this boulder dumping business, while the poor residing in hutments on the shoreline continue to suffer. As the crores of rupees sanctioned by the government to solve sea erosion has virtually gone down the drain, the district minister once again spoke about a permanent solution to the problem in the three coastal districts, at a cost of Rs 700 crore ADB aid. He also spoke about the funds released by the state government for the purpose. In a latest development the minister has said that the state cabiet has approved a R 911 crore project and that the first phase costing Rs 223 crores wioll bein in September. The second phase works will be completed by 2014, whiole the entire project would be ready by 2018. Hope all the plans would be executed as per schedule.
But, the other side of this story and the damage it causes is also something that has to be seriously considered. If one goes by the CRZ notification, no structure can come up within the 500 meter radius from the shoreline, be it any industrial activity or construction of houses. But, the fact is that there has been actually no concerted effort on the part of the government to enforce this rule strictly.
One good example is the several so called guest houses of the rich and the influential which have come up in blatant violation of rules, on the shoreline. Most of these are in benami names. Of course, Deputy Commissioner V Ponnuraj could some time back manage to demolish at least a few of these unauthorized guest houses. But, many more still exist as if to make a mockery of the CRZ regulations.
It’s also equally true that many of the houses which have been damaged due to the fury of sea erosion are the ones that have been constructed unauthorizedly in the area. Though the CRZ rules permit the fishermen to have houses, by honoring their traditional rights, what is noticed at present is that even non-fishermen have chosen to have houses close by the shores, in the high tide line, despite being fully aware of the dangers living in such a place. One line of argument even goes that these people deliberately raise some temporary hutments just for the tidal waves to engulf their so called houses during sea erosion, so that they could claim compensation from the government.But, there is no denying that some fishermen having houses on the shore are the real sufferers.
It is being said that the intensity of sea erosion is particularly high this year when compared to the previous years. But a significant loss of property due to sea erosion can very well be avoided through the strict enforcement of the Coastal Regulation Zone. The amendment to the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification has already been placed before the public for debate by the Union Environment Ministry. The Union Government has so far incorporated 25 amendments to the Notification and the present amendment is the 26th one. However, the Karnataka round of public consultation with fisher folk and local communities to strengthen the CRZ, which was held in the city some time back has only stressed the need to allow fishermen to develop their dwellings in the 200 meters radius from the high tide line area. A few fishermen leaders from DK and Udupi also supported this view and said the fishermen who have been living in those areas for centuries should not be harmed by CRZ rules. But, when fishermen are permitted to raise constructions, several more(non-fishermen) too will take advantage, and raise constructions.
Finally, it can only be said that there should be no bias in evicting all the unauthorized constructions close by the seas, be it the guest houses of the rich or the hutments of the poor. The administration should give a time limit for the vacation of the buildings in the danger zone and even think in terms of providing alternate sites on humanitarian grounds to the poor who are living in the danger zone.
There is an urgent need on the part of the district administration to ensure such steps without succumbing to any sort of political pressure.
Finally, the hope is that all the promises made with regard to implement a permanent solution would be realized.