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Kochi coast hurt by dredging: Local people

V Sajeev Kumar | Updated on July 11, 2021

In focus: Protestors draw attention to the degeneration of coastal areas   -  The Hindu/Thulasi Kakkat

The Cochin Port Trust’s dredging measures invite the ire of the fishing community

The continuous dredging carried out by Cochin Port Trust to maintain the depth of its shipping channel has invited the wrath of a section of the local fishing community who contend that the process is impacting the coastal areas.

Dredging has made the waves stronger, causing landslides and beach erosion, they say. It hinders the movement of boats returning from the sea to the harbour. The fish workers belonging to Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) recently organised a protest in front of the port building, seeking remedial measures including steps to protect the coastal areas in and around Kochi.

Antony Sheelan, secretary, Fish Workers Union said that when Cochin Port Trust came into existence in 1928, the draft in the channel was 5m. Over the years, the depth has been raised progressively to 14.5m. The port trust is also exploring plans to further increase the depth to 17.5m.

The dredging activities, according to the union, have also led to the formation of holes on the seawalls. The union has suggested constructing breakwater in the port’s mouth and covering the holes with dredged silt.

The dredging controversy has reached the courts too. However, the Kerala High Court disposed off the case based on the affidavit filed by the Kerala Department of Tourism entrusting IIT Madras to carry out a detailed study on beach reclamation, reconstruction and protection of damaged walkways and other assets of the coast.

M Beena, Chairperson, Cochin Port Trust said that channel dredging is inevitable in order to allow bigger ships to berth. The port spends around ₹125 crore annually to keep the channel depth stable. It is not the port alone, but other government entities such as Cochin Shipyard, Coast Guard, Indian Navy and Petronet LNG too are beneficiaries of the channel. The current financial stress hinders the port from taking up the responsibility to protect the coastal areas.

A technical expert pointed out that Cochin Port was born out of dredging and that has been the one constant for the port throughout its history. Ever since Sir Robert Bristow started his experimental dredging operations in 1922, the channel of the port had needed constant dredging for the smooth movement of ships. The reason for erosion of coastal areas cannot entirely be attributed to dredging of the port channel. It is a phenomenon affecting most coastal parts of the state, the expert said.

Dredging has been part of the Kochi story for over 90 years and the port has been the main driver of that growth.

Published on July 11, 2021

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