Shoot

The hungry tides of Uppada

| Updated on May 01, 2020 Published on May 01, 2020

Soil erosion plagues coastal Andhra Pradesh, holding lives hostage to a vanishing shore

Soil erosion in the coastal village of Uppada, east Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh, is an old demon for its residents. It has been on the rise again recently, on account of a damaged geotextile tube wall — a semi-permanent retention wall made of permeable fabric that can filter soil. The wall was built to protect the surrounding villages from the erosion caused by sea waves. The tube, 1,463m long, was put in place in 2008-11 at a cost of ₹12.16 crore. The damage occurred over time due to the theft of ropes and plastic bags — makeshift materials — used in the construction of the geotextile tube wall, as well as the severe cyclonic storms that battered the coast. With the wall being impaired, the people of nearby villages are living in fear.

According to a study by the Andhra Pradesh Space Application Centre (APSAC), the coastline of Uppada eroded at an average of 1.23m per year between 1989 and 2018, with the village losing over 126.7 acres in the last four decades. The study indicated that such tubes may be effective initially but can’t stop wave patterns from eroding the coastline. The Uppada-Kakinada beach road has also been damaged four times in the past five years. A resident fisherman, Koda Srinu, said hundreds of households such as theirs were awaiting government action on allotment of alternative land and houses, even as they daily ran the risk of losing their present homes, especially with the onset of the monsoon.

The fishermen have been asking officials to get the existing wall repaired as well. They know, however, that an effective and regularly maintained seawall can be the only solution to erosion.

“During monsoon, high tides and cyclones, we abandon our houses and take shelter in public buildings such as schools,” said Srinu. Erosion has forced some to resettle elsewhere but they don’t want to move too far from the coast as their livelihood is dependent on the sea. While resettlement is a far cry, the villagers hope for the repair and maintenance of the damaged tubes till a more permanent solution is found.

Tanmoy Bhaduri is a Kolkata-based independent photojournalist; the photo essay was developed as part of a workshop at the Earth Journalism Network in Kakinada

Published on May 01, 2020