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J Environ Manage. 2008 Oct;89(1):24-34. Epub 2007 May 22.

An environmental perspective of the post-tsunami scenario along the coast of Tamil Nadu, India: role of sand dunes and forests.

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National Institute of Oceanography, Dona Paula, Goa, India.


An endeavor to feel the pulse of a coast devastated by a powerful oceanographic event is made. Results of field investigations along Tamil Nadu seaside revealed that the tsunami of December 2004 demolished dwellings within strips ranging from 6 to 132 m (average width, 41 m) from the dune, and flooded up to 862 m (average, 247 m) from the shore. The event damaged sand dunes, ripped dune vegetation, created new water bodies and shattered high value assets. Comparatively, casuarina forests performed remarkably. Uprooting of trees was exclusively restricted to a frontal strip ranging from 5 to 25 m (average width, 14 m) nearest to the shore where the maximum wave run-up was 6.5m above sea level. Sand dunes in general, and casuarina forests in particular, possess an innate capacity to dissipate powerful waves. This inference is supported by (a) negligible over wash along belts characterized by high dune complexes, (b) intact villages shielded by dense forests as well as sand dunes, and (c) maximum destruction of open beach front influenced by intense human activity. In this context, the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) Notification of 1991 offers sufficient scientific validity to be endorsed. However, post-tsunami ecosystem management initiatives lack a scientific basis. Therefore, a coastal hazards policy, that considers adaptation, dune restoration and forested buffer zones, is a sustainable long-term option for Indian coasts.

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