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Geotube Construction in Pentha, Odisha, India


Description:

A World Bank-supported geo-synthetic tube is under construction in Pentha, a coastal village in Odisha, India. (1) Pentha, with a population of around 50,000 fishermen, has experienced severe erosion over the past two to three decades (3). The project, funded through the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Programme, aims to protect Pentha against increased sea erosion, especially from cyclones. Cyclones in the area often cause sea surges between five to eight metres, with at least one instance of 11 metres recorded in 1999. Oceangraphic experts from the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai (IIT) claim that climate change and rising sea levels have caused changes in the circulation of the sea, resulting in additional erosion and deposition of sand. (1) This tube will be the second geotube built in India; the first was a one-kilometre tube in West Bengal constructed in 2008. The Pentha geotube will contain sediment within a geotextile ‘sleeve’ and rest parallel to the coast, rising two feet above the sea. There are two additional shields against storms in Pentha: a mud and stone wall, and a natural mangrove. (1) Though scientists from IIT studied Pentha’s morphology and the wave patterns, as well as the sand’s moisture contents prior to the project’s start (1), the Odisha State Forest Department called a halt to the project in June, 2014, because of its failure to gain forest and wildlife clearance. A letter sent by the Rajnagar Mangrove forest division to the Water Resources Department requested suspension of construction until proper authorities could assess the impact. A Divisional Forest Officer from the Rajnagar Mangrove forest division stated that proper clearance is essential, as the construction will take place close to the Gahirmatha forest and marine sanctuary. If construction agencies do not stop their work, they will be in violation of the forest conservation act and wildlife protection act, which would result in penal action, according to the Rajnagar Mangrove forest division.

(2) A ‘green activist’ named Biswajit Mohanty spoke on the subject of the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, explaining that Pentha beach is a mass-nesting site for Olive Ridley sea turtles. Gahiramatha has been designated as a marine sanctuary since 1997 in order to protect these turtles. Mohanty claims the government is illegally building this geotube within the designated sanctuary area without proper permission from the forest department. (2) (4) Arttabandhu Mishra, another local environmentalist, claims this project treats a symptom, not a cause, while other activists point to rapid industrialization as the root of the problem; industrialization has severely decreased mangrove forests, which has allowed increased erosion.

Within 50 years the mangroves in Odisha have decreased from 1,000 square kilometres to 219 square kilometres, with 2.5 square kilometres lost annually due to industrialization. (4) Some additional concerns have been voiced that the government has not been spending the allocated 220 million Indian rupees for the project at a fast enough rate, which has forced local villagers to gather sandbags to plug holes in the current barriers. Others have criticised the project and suggested that funding should go towards additional mangroves and other ‘bio-shields’, instead. However, supporters of the project say that bio-shields are not enough, and claim the geotube will save more than 16,000 hectares of paddy field. (1)

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Geotube Construction in Pentha, Odisha, India
Country:India
State or province:Odisha
Location of conflict:Pentha
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Wetlands and coastal zone management
Climate change related conflicts (glaciers and small islands)
Specific commodities:geotextiles, gabion boxes, polymer rope
Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

Project area:0.07
Level of Investment:4,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:50,000
Start of the conflict:30/09/2008
Relevant government actors:Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) forest department;
Odisha State Forest Department;
Indian State Government;
Odisha Water Department
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Biswajit Mohanty;
Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai (IIT)

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsPotential to disrupt mass turtle nesting in marine sanctuary
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/sense of place

Outcome

Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Application of existing regulations
Moratoria
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure

Sources and Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

(2) Geo-synthic tube project comes under scanner of state forest department
http://www.thestatesman.net/news/61409-geo-synthetic-tube-project-comes-under-scanner-of-state-forest-department.html

'Bureaucracy on the Beach'-description of critique of project by environmentalists in 2008
http://www.downtoearth.org.in/node/5071

(3)Geotube embankment for ICZMP of Pentha village in Odisha (academic article)
http://www.academia.edu/7441926/GEO_TUBE_EMBANKMENT_FOR_ICZMP_OF_PENTHA_VILLAGE_IN_ODISHA

(1) India deploys coastal tube defense against tidal surges
http://www.trust.org/item/?map=india-deploys-coastal-tube-defense-against-tidal-surges

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Telegraph India story on project suspension
http://www.telegraphindia.com/1140621/jsp/odisha/story_18533108.jsp#.VAJkXLuYa4s

Article on seawall at start of construction
http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/Construction-of-Geo-tube-Sea-Wall-Begins-at-Pentha-Village/2014/06/12/article2276195.ece

Article on IIT team of scientists studying proposed project area
http://www.trinet.in/?q=node/728

Meta information

Contributor:Lena Weber, Lund University Department of Human Ecology
Last update06/09/2014