Sea walls opposed

Andaman's ecology will suffer

Published: Saturday 15 October 2005

Huge damages call for judiciou environmentalists in Andaman and Nicobar (a&n) Islands are vociferously opposing a government decision to construct mud sea walls to stop the deluge of seawater post-tsunami. Many non-governmental organisations working in Andaman allege the move is a misutilisation of tsunami relief money and would destroy coral reefs.

"This [construction of sea walls] was extremely necessary for the welfare of islanders. We could reclaim a lot of land ...and, most importantly, save a part of Andaman Trunk Road...We have also cleared 1,713 hectares land for cropping," says V V Bhat, chief secretary, a&n administration. But Samir Acharya of Society for Andaman and Nicobar Ecology, an environmental organisation, has a different take: "This is wasting tax payers' money. a&n islands get 3,000 millimetre rainfall annually and these mud structures cannot stand even for a year in this climate...soil erosion from these walls will deposit silt on coral reefs, which could kill polyps, the living creatures inside corals. Also, these walls have created many water bodies that help mosquitoes breed." The walls will also harm forests, where soil is being dug up to construct them.

However, Central Agricultural Research Institute (cari) scientists say sea walls will help farmers and provide a huge area for prawn cultivation. "To stop mud erosion, we'll plant various species of plants, which would give financial benefits too," says the director of cari's Andaman unit. But greens say by the time this happens, a lot of mud would have washed into the sea.

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