The 2004 tsunami in South India had claimed the lives of thousands of people. The worst affected were the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.
Many villages in the coastal area were submerged in water and many others saw large scale erosion. The livelihood of the people was adversely affected as the states tried to protect its coastlines.
“Both Kerala and Tamil Nadu needed an immediate plan of action. This is when the state governments asked me to step in as a consultant to prepare a master plan on coastal protection. Since in many places no proper studies were conducted, it resulted in erosion in the adjoining shoreland,” said Professor V Sundar, speaking to The Logical Indian.
Professor V Sundar is a faculty member at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, Department of Ocean Engineering. He obtained his B.E. in civil engineering from the University of Madras and later pursued M.Tech and Ph.D from IIT Madras.
In 2007, he was approached by the Tamil Nadu and Kerala governments to conduct studies and implement a project to protect the states’ coastlines.
Since then, 30-35 projects in Kerala and about 15 in Tamil Nadu have been successfully completed under his leadership.
“The Kerala project is going on since 2007. It was started with studies and research, then followed by government procedures. The process is still ongoing. We could do more work in Kerala because the state’s coastal stretch is 400-500 km, while Tamil Nadu’s coastline is about 900 kms,” he said.
Prof V Sundar’s implementation of ‘Groin Fields’ process reclaimed 25 eroded sites of 2 km each around 25 villages in Kerala. “This technology was last used in the 90s and had proven largely beneficial. We bent the process according to the needs of the local people and implemented it after months and years of research,” he said.
What is Groin Fields process?
Groin, in coastal engineering, is a long and narrow shore-perpendicular structure built out into the water from a beach in order to prevent erosion or to trap and accumulate sand that would otherwise drift along the beach face and nearshore zone under the influence of waves approaching the beach at an angle.
The most significant impact of Groin fields is its retention of sand. Unlike sea walls which can only prevent further erosion, this process can actually recover land lost to the sea. It is a highly scientific process which requires precise calculations – quality of sediments, direction of long-shore currents, downdrift along the beach, etc.
IIT-Madras students helped implement the technology
“I had involved my students in the study and the implementation of the project. This gave them a greater practical knowledge. Many of the studies were conducted in IIT-Madras and have been successfully used to reclaim Kerala beaches,” said Prof Sundar.
Since 2007, the university has recovered around 50 km of lost beaches in the state by inculcating modern technology to the age-old Groin Fields process.
“This process has been successfully tried all over the world. It was used in India as well in the 1960s, but was forgotten over time. As the Ocean Engineering department of IIT-M carefully studied and designed a scientific method for a modern use of the technology, lost Kerala beaches were reclaimed,” said Prof Sundar.
He dedicates the success of the project to his students. The team is now working on a project in North Chennai, south of Pulicat backwaters where a beach of the width of about 300 metres over a stretch of 3 km has been lost due to erosion. The project involves a construction of 19 Groins, of which, the first phase of 10 Groins is completed.
“IIT-M developed a comprehensive shoreline management plan and submitted it to the Tamil Nadu government in 2015-16, suggesting solutions to coastal problems. Thereafter, the IIT-M team is currently implementing a Groin Field Project in North Chennai,” said Prof Sundar.
Apart from Groin Fields in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Professor V Sundar is also working on a project to monitor coastal climate.
Speaking to The Logical Indian he said, “We also got a major project from the Central Water Commission, the Ministry of Water Resources, wherein we are trying to accumulate data to install equipment and instruments to monitor coastal climate. This will add on to our knowledge and give a greater scientific background on the design of coastal structures.”
The project is scheduled to start by this month or in July, and work will be conducted in Puducherry, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Apart from Prof Sundar, Prof S.A. Sannasiraj and Prof K. Murali, Department of Ocean Engineering, IIT-Madras, are also involved in its design and implementation.
The Logical Indian commends the work done by IIT-Madras students and Professor V Sundar to reclaim the beaches of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Their work is uplifting the livelihood of thousands of people who reside along the coastline of these states. We hope that other states too take this as an example and implement a similar project in required areas.
To know more about Professor V Sundar and his work, click here.