The tsunami on 26.12.2004 has brought forth the question of our attitude towards our long seacoast. So far we see the sea as a mere fishpond. The potential of a long seacoast in building up of a powerful nation has not been realized. Tsunami should change the situation.

Voyage on sea by high caste people had resulted in their being outcaste in the past centuries. Gandhi and Ramanujam had to overcome this hurdle. Because of this, maritime trade could not flourish in our land which situation paved way for the easy entry of the European traders who later became our masters. Tsunami has given us a chance to change our views and pay due respect to our valuable seacoast.

In the recent past ecologists were able to persuade Indian Govt. to issue an order prohibiting structures within 500mts from the seashore. But by pressure from industrialists it was reduced to 100mts and then raised to 200mts by the help of the Supreme Court. The fishermen with the help of politicians managed even to obstruct the State Govt. from erecting sea wall in some places. They built houses where the tidal and monsoon waves washed frequently.

The removal of the natural sea fortress of sand dunes called locally “theri” in Kanyakumari District for export of the rare earth from sea shore either raw or in extracted form and subsequent colonization of the flattened shore made the people dwelling there helpless before the tsunami.

Now the tsunami has changed the outlook of the coastal fishermen. They want to be away from the seashore. But the safety of the hundreds of thousands of catamarans, fishnets, and other fishing equipments worries them.

Catamaran is the most primitive ferrying object devised by man, suitable for one or two men’s operation it has played a major part by acting as fierce missiles in the merciless hands of the tsunami in the destruction of buildings, lives and properties. It is high time to displace these catamarans by boats and other fishing vessels and diverting the people already using them in jobs connected with fishing operations according to their age and education. To this end the following steps are essential and urgent.

1. Restoration of the “theri” throughout Tamilnadu coast, forming a 4 lane road on top of it and planting coconut and other palmaceous trees and trees not meant for fuel or timber.

2. Restoration of the inland navigation channel hugging the seacoast such as the A.V.M. channel from Kanyakumari to Kochi and Buckingham canal from Visahapattinam to Nahappattinam and to excavate a new one from Nahappattinam to Kanyakumari. Local rain water not intercepted by the streams emptying directly into the sea can be drained into this channel through lagoons, either natural or artificially formed at suitable points.

3. Estuaries of streams should be made harbours mainly for fishing with provision for cargo transport. The road on top of the “theri” should be carried over these streams on high piered, long spanned bridges.

4. If the adjacent be natural estuaries far apart, tiny fishing harbours should be built at suitable points in-between.

Fishing harbours should have facilities such as dormitories for fishermen, cloak room for nets and other fishing equipments, boat service yards, recreation club, disaster shelter etc. etc.

If these provisions be made there won’t be any difficulty for the fishermen in housing their habitat not even 500mts away but at any reasonable distance they choose beyond it enabling them without any trouble to arrive their work spot in the harbour and return home.

The habitat should be beyond the 500mts limit from the shore. When the site is below the vulnerable level to be fixed by expects even at 500mts, the buildings should be elevated to the required height using columns. Flat systems of houses in desirable, but the people are not ready for it at present. When the infrastructures in the fishing harbours are complete most of the people may like to move inland and like to live in flats. Therefore the permanent habitats, which are to be erected presently, will only be a temporary one regarding the fishing people.

In addition to all these a sea channel (Kappalodai) wide and deep enough for a major ship to ferry to and fro along the whole of the Indian coast should be dug so that acting with the “theri” and inland channel it can quell most of the energy carried by any future tsunami before it reaches the people inland.

Hence the process of planning the permanent habitat and fishing harbour network and sea channel should start simultaneously.

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