Posted on November 27, 2023
Over one lakh families in the two dozen villages, abutting the Pulicat lake, in Gudur and Sullurpeta constituencies who depend on fishing and allied activities, have been deprived of livelihood sources due to a drastic fall in water level in the lake over decades
The lake is spread over 481 sq.km in Tirupati district of Andhra Pradesh on the north and Tiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu on the south. The waterbody has been shrinking due to the accumulation of sand at Raidoruvu (Pudi Rayadoruvu) inlet, the northern entry point from the sea.
A study conducted by the National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), working under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, found a solution in opening the mouth to allow water to flow into the lake. The study also recommended construction of training jetties for its stabilisation, besides dredging of channel in a stretch of 2.8 km towards the lake.
The decades-old neglect has caused a steady depletion in water level, an unusual increase in pH value and fall in fish availability. This severely impacted the livelihood of fishermen forcing them to eke out a living by selling earthworms to hatcheries, which, in turn, dealt a deathblow to the already-crippled ecosystem.
The villages are already suffering in terms of mobility, infrastructure development and livelihood sources due to the restrictions imposed by the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC, Sriharikota) on the one side and the Pulicat lake bird sanctuary on the other.
Dredging the sea mouth and restoring Pulicat continues to remain the only light at the end of the tunnel.
The Union Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways agreed to develop the lake under its flagship ‘Sagarmala project’ with ₹128.80 crore, but wanted the State to chip in with contribution. After hectic parleys leading to avoidable delays, the State revised the project cost and brought down the first phase component to ₹94.76 crore, with 50% contribution, according to the latest communication made on November 10 by the Commissioner of Fisheries K. Kanna Babu to the Centre.
“The project impacts the livelihood of 40,000 fishermen families and an equal number of other communities dependent on allied activities. The State government is working to overcome all hurdles, including clearances pertaining to the coastal regulatory zone, to launch the project at the earliest,” Member of Parliament (Tirupati) M. Gurumoorthy told The Hindu.
The villagers are waiting with a bated breath as the Chief Minister, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, who is all set to visit Sullurpeta on Tuesday, is expected to make a significant announcement on the long-pending project.