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Meeting on structure to facilitate fishing boats in Pulicat on Oct 29

CHENNAI: After much delay, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) is finally organising a meeting seeking public opinion on the proposed project to build training walls at Pulicat Lake. A training wall is a wall or jetty that confines and directs the flow of a river or tide.
The construction, at a cost of Rs 27 crore, is aimed at preventing sand deposit at the lake’s mouth and ensure smooth operation of boats into sea throughout the year.
While fishermen want the construction to begin soon, environmentalists say this could cause severe environmental damage.
K Bharathi, president of the South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association, who will represent concerns of 10 fishing villages near Pulicat, said sand dunes at the point where the lake joins the sea reduce the depth and width of the passage making the movement of boats very risky.
“So many fishermen have lost their lives while crossing this stretch and hundreds of boats have got damaged. But the government doesn’t even dredge regularly to ensure smooth sailing,” he said.
However, constructing of walls will prevent water exchange between the lake and the sea and this could affect reproduction of prawns and few other fish. Eventually this might affect the livelihood of fishermen there, said ecologist D Narasimhan.
The creek is very fragile and once its nature is altered, it could cause severe environmental damage, he said, stressing on the need for TNPCB to consider all such aspects before going ahead with the clearance process.
Though fishermen said exchange of water was inevitable, they want the government to adopt the Chennai Harbour model and not just construct two parallel walls with groynes and access roads. Such attempts at Rameshwaram and other coastal towns have not been very successful.
A senior TNPCB official said the project was designed by the state fisheries department after consulting experts from IIT Madras (Department of Ocean Engineering) who inspected the site. “Opinions of all stakeholders will be considered and recorded,” he said.
The public hearing meeting will take place at TNPCG district environmental engineer office at SIPCOT Industrial Complex in Gummidipoondi on October 29.
It took many years for the project, mooted soon after the 2004 Tsunami, to materialize. The Centre had denied permission in 2018. Only now, considerable progress has been recorded after a two-year gap.