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Paradeep - the next victim of coastal erosion!

"The sunken Mongolian Vessel Black Rose triggered concern among fishermen, environmentalists and marine scientists. The sunken ship had an estimated 924.4 tonnes of furnace oil and 48 tonnes of diesel. The 24,000 metric tonnes of iron ore inside the Black Rose would lead to a great ecological disaster for the marine flora and fauna.  Oil spill apart, iron ore in Black Rose poses a serious threat to Pradip beach"

Bibhuti Bhusan Pati : October 4, 2009

After Satabhaya, Hukitola, Gopalpur-on-sea, Puri-Konark beach, coastal erosion process has taken up Paradip port and its township under imminent threat from the destructive natural phenomenon of coastal erosion. As the port town is in a low-lying area reclaimed from mangrove vegetation, the recent trend of the sea waves poses serious threat to the beach and the port township of Paradeep. According to the official sources of Government of Orissa, almost a patch of 400 meter sea shore has already been lost to the mighty sea waves in the past two years in the Jagatsinghpur district. Padmapur in Ersama block is already facing the wrath of the marine forces.
 
Also a casuarinas forest patch between the confluence of Devi River and Jatadhari River has recently been destroyed by the erosion and, if the process continues, this would act as a considerable threat to the port township. Though global warming is supposed to be a major reason behind the rising sea levels across the globe, some experts feel otherwise. According to Prof. G K panda of department of Geography of Utkal University, rise in wind speed could be a reason behind the phenomenon across the Orissa coast.
 
According to the geomorphology expert, there has been a rise in the speed of sea wind due to global warming. As tidal patterns are governed by sea winds, rise in temperature ultimately causes strong tidal waves. However, in the monsoon season the destructive forces become more active. As South-West monsoon brings rain to the Orissa coast, during its active onset the destruction is also noticed to a greater extent, observes Prof. Panda. After the 1999 super cyclone, the coastal erosion process that has increased substantially is going to affect the State in terms of a bigger natural disaster along its 476.4 KM coastline starting from Talasari village in Bhograi in Balasore district to Patisuna in Chikiti block of Ganjam district. And, perhaps more places would be added to the list of affected villages in future days.
 
Frequent floods in Subarnarekha, Budhabalanga and Jalaka rivers have changed the geographical maps of more than 100 villages in Bhogarai, Jaleswar, Baliapal, Remuna and Sadar blocks in the coastal district. What has pressed the panic button is that both Subarnarekha and Budhabalanga are changing their courses very often. While river banks are eroding, parts of villages are fast disappearing with the river eating into chunks of land at an alarming rate on both sides forcing over a lakh of people seing an uncertain future.

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In fact, Subarnarekha has already swallowed about 75 per cent of Badakhanpur village and it’s neighboring Sankarpur under Balipal block.  Both the rivers have posed danger to 13 panchayats in Bhogarai block along with eight in Baliapal, five in Jaleswar, four in Remuna and five in Sadar blocks. And, the latest victim is Old Balasore area.
 
Subarnarekha has been a serious threat for Bhogarai, Baliapal and Jaleswar for the last 15 years.  Heavy sand deposits at the Subarnarekha confluence have forced the river to change its course.
 
Jaleswar Ex MLA Jayanarayan Mohanty, who was in the Assembly Estimates Committee in 1998, said that the Committee had studied the phenomenon and proposed various protective measures for both the rivers. But the measures have been rotting under the red tapes of Government files. He alleged that the Committee had suggested stone packing on both sides of the Subarnrekha, dredging of its mouth, construct 80 spurs and a reservoir at Dharmadwar in Baliapal. But barring some spurs and stone packing nothing has been done yet.
 
However, the Irrigation Executive Engineer Arun Patnaik mentions ‘Funds crunch’ as the major reason for which protection measures are being delayed. ‘We have sent a proposal of Rs. 60 crore this year. If the money is sanctioned, we can take effective steps to check diversion of course by the river’, says Er Pattnaik.
 
As threat to coastal region increases with climate change, the State Government has moved towards creation of a special directorate to combat the looming danger. This, probably, is for the first time that a State has planned a dedicated wing. Coastal Erosion Protection Directorate has been delegated to meet the challenges of coastal erosion. In fact, a study by National Institute of Oceanography in 2006 had revealed that at least 107 KM of Orissa’s 484 KM coast line has been affected by sea erosion. In the last one year, coastal residents in Gopalpur, Puri and Satabhaya witnessed with horror as the sea ate away chunks of the habitat drawing the attention of the scientists.

The directorate planned by the State Government, will be under the control of the Water Resources Department which shall act as the nodal agency. It will not only look after structural works but also coordinate with agencies such as NIO and Madrass IIT for technical know-how.
 

It will also be responsible for inter-departmental coordination for mobilization of manpower. The directorate will also carry out survey along 480 odd KM to ascertain vulnerability of different pockets. As of now, Superintending Engineering of Central Irrigation Circle is heading the wing with two other engineers. The State Government has decided to post more manpower at a later stage.

The issue of oil leakage from the sunken ship is again considered to be another greatest threat to the coastal eco sytem across Bay of Bengal. But what has still been ignored is the possible dangers of the iron ore that is stored in the ship which would realy cause a catastrophe for the life in the sea.

 

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