New Delhi, The ruined breakwater on Pentha’s beach in Orissa will soon give way to a new coastal defence system – a 675 metre geotextile tube (or geotube) embedded in the shore to form an embankment that will help protect the community and its neighbouring villages from erosion caused by shifting tides and storm surges.
The geotube embankment is designed to dissipate the force of storm surges, allowing other embankments to deflect the weakened tidal surge. At Pentha, a “bio-shield” of mangroves and similar species will act as a second line of defence behind the new embankment, along with an existing mud and stonewall beyond it.
The new embankment is a pilot scheme initiated in 2009 by the federal environment and forests ministry as part of a statewide Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP). With 2.27 billion Indian rupees ($41 million) of funding from the World Bank, the program aims eventually to benefit 235 coastal villages with a total of 400,000 residents.
In the past two years alone, huge waves have destroyed two 7-metre high (23 feet) embankments and eroded 20 hectares (49 acres) of farmland in this village in Odisha state on India’s eastern coast, threatening homes and agricultural land.
Cyclones have wreaked devastation in Odisha numerous times in living memory. By far the worst was the cyclone of 1999, which killed 10,000 people across the state. The storm surge was more than 11 metres (36 feet) and uprooted what little remained of the mangroves standing between the encroaching tides and Pentha, penetrating the Mahanadi river system and causing serious flooding inland.
Photograph by PTI