Soil erosion in the coastal village of Uppada, in East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh, India, is an old demon for its residents. It has been on the rise again recently, on account of a damaged geotextile tube wall — a semi-permanent retention wall made of permeable fabric that can filter soil. The wall was built to protect the surrounding villages from the erosion caused by sea waves. The tube -- 1,463 meters long -- was put in place between 2008-2011 at a cost of ₹12.16 crore.
The damage has occurred over time due to the theft of ropes and plastic bags — makeshift materials — used to construct the geotextile tube wall, as well as severe cyclonic storms that have battered the coast. With the wall impaired, the people of nearby villages are living in fear.
According to a study by the Andhra Pradesh Space Application Centre (APSAC), the coastline of Uppada eroded at an average rate of 1.23m per year between 1989 and 2018, with the village losing over 126.7 acres in the last four decades. The study indicated that such tubes may be effective initially but can’t stop wave patterns from eroding the coastline. The Uppada-Kakinada beach road has also been damaged four times in the past five years. A resident fisherman, Koda Srinu, said hundreds of households like his were awaiting government action on the allotment of alternative land and houses, even as the risk of losing their present homes grew, especially with the onset of the monsoon.
The fishermen have been asking officials to get the existing wall repaired as well. They know, however, that a regularly maintained seawall is the most viable way to combat current erosion.
“During monsoon, high tides and cyclones, we abandon our houses and take shelter in public buildings such as schools,” said Srinu. Erosion has forced some to resettle elsewhere, but they don’t want to move too far from the coast as their livelihoods depend on the sea. While resettlement is a far cry, the villagers hope for the repair and maintenance of the damaged tubes until a more permanent solution is found.
Tanmoy Bhaduri is a Kolkata-based independent photojournalist; the photo essay was developed as part of a workshop hosted by the Earth Journalism Network in Kakinada, India, in March 2020.
Banner image: A combination of development projects, such as the dredging and construction of ports, contributes to widespread erosion in coastal India. Changes in wave intensity, rising sea levels and frequent cyclones add to the damage / Credit: Tanmoy Bhaduri.