Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sustainable swimming beaches in Chennai

Chennai has a large coastline. However, there are hardly any clean and safe swimming beaches. This is largely due to fishing settlements in many inner city beaches. The fishermen do not have access to clean toilets. So, they use the sea as a toilet. This is especially common at dawn, when one would ideally like to go for a swim before it gets too hot.

Another problem caused by the fishing settlements is the inability to build coastal roads through these settlements, leading to congestion in narrow lanes forced to become arterial roads (e.g. Anna Street connecting Kalakshetra colony and Marundeeshwarar temple).

However, the fishing settlement can be empowered with a tremendous resource right at their doorstep. Waves. Small scale offshore wave energy turbines can be installed in each such settlement. A fraction of the energy generated can be used to power low cost housing for these settlements. The rest can be traded in the energy market. The proceeds can go towards funding low cost housing, and a sanitation system, followed by beach beautification.

So that the fishermen can remain economically independent, we need an NGO to fund the setting up of wave turbines, which the settlement can own or part-own with an energy company.

A derivative product can be structured around the risks (the energy company giving the knowhow and equipment for wave turbines needs high waves, the fishermen need low waves).

If this can be piloted in a handful of beach-kuppams in Chennai, over time the beach can become clean. Beautification projects can be started, and people can feel safe to go for a swim without fear of diarrhoea.

Obviously my suggestion is very lazy and naive. It does not take into account the cost of setting up wave turbines, their energy output efficiency, the ability to integrate the generated energy into the local grid and how the energy market works. Oracles, please help me work out the details in the comments section.

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