Friday, September 28, 2012

Caught between quarries and sea erosion in Kerala

K.S. Hari Krishnan in IPS: After more than a century of fighting sea erosion by massively dumping granite boulders along the beaches of southern  Kerala state, environmentalists and administrators are beginning to see that this has been a costly and ineffective solution.

Since 1890 when granite blocks were first used to construct a 1.5 km sea wall  near the pilgrim town of Varkala, entire hills have vanished and vast pits gouged out to extract a mineral that is also in high demand by the construction industry.

Ajayakumar Verma, a senior scientist at the Centre of Earth Science Studies in Thiruvananthapuram, told IPS that unregulated quarrying of granite is beginning to have a perceptible impact on Kerala’s unique ecosystem formed of high rocky hills and a network of rivers and backwaters leading into the sea.

Kerala is home to the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and the Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve, both recognised by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation as regions of  biological and cultural diversity that need protection while promoting sustainable economic development.

“Mass quarrying is a destructive activity which leads to minor tremors. A balanced stone quarrying policy, taking into account the needs of both the construction industry and coastal protection, is needed,” Verma said.

After a 1989 assessment by the Central Water Commission deemed that 480 km of Kerala’s 560 km coastline was vulnerable to erosion, massive stone quarrying work has been going on, using high explosives and heavy equipment. So far, 331.80 km of seawall have been constructed in an exercise that amounts to moving entire hills to the coasts....

A mosque in Kerala, shot by arun..., Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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