A research report produced by ISRO’s Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad, has revealed that Goa lost around 15.2 hectares of coastal land due to sand erosion over ten years. Interestingly, while the loss of land between 2004 and 2016 was approximately 28.8 hectares, the report has factored in the 13.6 hectares of coast regained through accretion, a process where coastal sediments return as visible portions of the shore after submerging.
Soil erosion has been an issue that Goa has been witnessing for decades. Around 20 per cent of the 139-km Goa coastline has been washed away due to rising sea levels. The National Centre for Coastal Research, Chennai, which monitors India’s shoreline using remote sensing data and GIS mapping techniques, has been analysing data and has noted around 27 km of Goa’s shoreline has suffered over the years.
The data is alarming from Goa’s viewpoint because the beaches are known selling points of the State’s tourism. However, Goa has been grappling with sand erosion for the past several decades, and the scale of degradation witnessed in the last decade indicates that containment measures and various methods adopted to ward off the swell of seawater have failed. Massive chunks of the shoreline in areas like Cavelossim, Benaulim, Colva, Majorda, Utorda, Velsao and Keri are a testimony of man’s failure against nature. Unfortunately, even sand dunes have been swept off in some areas, and seawater has covered new ground.
This is a grim reminder that we need to change our outlook and approach towards beach management and conservation and bank more on natural resources such as sand dunes that act as barriers and sentinels on the coast. Unfortunately, in a tearing hurry of development, there has been no consideration to salvage the situation and no efforts to identify and protect the many sand dunes that have suddenly vanished into oblivion.
It may be recalled that a staggering 46 lakh sqmts of sand dunes was omitted from the draft of the Coastal Zone Management Plan when the survey was done by the Chennai-based research institute National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management. However, it was only after a survey done by the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority that reality dawned that sand dunes were missing from the plan. Subsequently, there has been no urgency to rectify the anomaly.
While there is no definite pattern to soil erosion, it is established that containment measures have been failing. A classic case is in the Keri beach, where a 1600-metre Gabon seawall constructed at a whopping cost of Rs 4.2 crore disintegrated within three years. Tetrapod seawalls are concrete structures known to be the best defence against sea surges.
While Goa is witnessing a spurt in coastal and ecological violations, authorities must take this tragedy over the coast seriously and strike a balance between nature and development. Data points out that 19 beaches in Goa face massive soil erosion, which is why there is an urgent need to rejuvenate beach ecosystems and ensure beach vegetation is not tampered with.
Sadly, while focussing on beach tourism, violations such as digging bore wells and soak pits are going unnoticed, and checks on the carrying capacity of beaches have been ignored. Authorities need to wake up to the dangers of the seas.