In the last one week a dozen houses of fishermen along the shore at Srinivasapuram in Foreshore Estate have been destroyed by strong waves. The pounding sea, which broke down a compound wall, is the effect of a rare monsoonal phenomenon, generally observed in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. Professor of department of ocean engineering, IIT Madras S A Sannasiraj, said this was an effect of the southwest monsoon but is not an annual event in this part of the state. “This phenomenon is called ‘swell’. It happens during southwest monsoon along the coastline in Kanyakumari district. These waves can cover a lot of distance but they are not normally recorded in the coastline along the Bay of Bengal, but this time they are being observed in Chennai,” he said, assuring that this is a temporary phenomenon and will have a short term impact on the community living nearby. Director of the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, R Ramesh, too confirmed that this was a “monsoonal change”, but pointed that encroachment along the coastline was to blame for destruction of property. “Coastlines that have natural barriers like mangroves and san dunes do not face such problems. Absence of natural barriers lead to destruction,” said Ramesh. As per the existing Coastal Regulation Zone rules a minimum buffer required under the CRZ III categor, in cities like Chennai, is 500 metres from the high tide line. The limit for CRZ II areas is 250 metres. He pointed out that despite warnings encroachments along the coastline has put pressure on the ecology. The Centre is in the process of mapping the ecologically sensitive areas in 78 districts in the country which have a shore.

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