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Beaches shrink as housing, garbage creep up on ocean

Times of India, New Delhi, September 18, 2014


C Shiva spends most of his free time on the beach. Lately it's occurred to him that the beach is getting narrower all the time. "It feels like the water on one side and the buildings on the other side are closing in on the sand," he said. "Structures have come up right on the beachfront. In some parts, especially in Thiruvanmiyur and Neelankarai, there is no space to walk." Shiva may be right. Over the years, buildings, dumping of construction waste and encroachments have clogged up beaches in the city, experts say, and natural migration of sand, or littoral drift, has been impeded by artificial structures like ports, resulting in the beaches becoming narrow strips of sand. "On the macro level, the sea is coming closer to the land as structures like ports, sea walls and groynes stop sand from migrating.


This disrupts the natural balance of beach formation," environmentalist V Arun said. "During the northeast monsoon, sand moves south and during the southwest monsoon it moves north. More sand is shifted on the eastern coast by the northeast monsoon." "Any permanent structure on the beach interferes with this movement and results in large deposition of sand on one side and erosion on the other. Both the Ennore and Chennai ports were built long ago but still have a profound impact on sand migration. More recent developments on Marina, like the swimming pool, have increased the rate of erosion," said T K Ramkumar, who was a member of the Madras high court monitoring committee for the development of Adyar creek.


Using Google Earth, he estimates that new buildings that have come up in MRC Nagar, including a five-star hotel, have resulted in encroachment of up to 20 metres on the Adyar creek. Dumping of construction debris is rampant in areas like Srinivasapuram and Pattinapakkam. A study, 'Coastal Encroachments and Beach Use Conversions in Chennai', released last year, observed that about 2.6 acres was filled with debris to a height of 2 metres — right up to the waterline in Foreshore Estate. "