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Snehal Rebello, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, October 12, 2012
Maharashtra is among the top five states in the country with fast-eroding coastlines. The report ‘The Challenged Coast of India’ states that 263 km of the state’s 652.6 km coastline is affected by erosion – fourth after Kerala, Karnataka and West Bengal. While settlements and commercial activities occupy a significant part of the state’s coastline, the report has revealed that Maharashtra has the highest number of ports in the country with 44 of 143 major and minor ports in India and occupying 37.26 km located in the state.

“Ports, harbours and other coastal structures directly modify the coastline and its habitats, and with so many new projects in the pipeline, the danger that we will be left with very little of the natural and healthy coast is real,” the report states.

The state also has the highest port frequency, with a port at every 20 km of coastline against the national average of one port for every 50 km of coastline.

With about 20km as the area of impact of a port, the report stated that the subsequent impact on the coast would be much higher. The report also revealed that the area of impact of all ports would be approximately 3,000 km or 45% of India's coastline.

“Not only do port activities extend landward but their impact because of associated structures such as breakwaters, extend well beyond the coastline they actually occupy,” the report stated.

“The major problem due to ports is coastal erosion but it is tackled locally by building coastal structures such as seawalls and groynes which only extend the area of a port’s impact,” said Sudarshan Rodriguez from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) Deonar, who was part of the report.

The report said many of the coastal structures such as groynes and seawalls are built to protect the coast against erosion but tend to further aggravate the problem and endanger the coast.

TISS along with the National Coastal Protection Campaign, Pondy Citizens’ Action Network and the Bombay Natural History Society released a report ‘The Challenged Coast of India’ at the ongoing 11th meeting of the Conference of Parties-Convention on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad.