Bheemili Beach: Waves of Thrill and Ethnic Creativity

Located at the mouth of the river Gosthani which merges with Bay of Bengal at Bheemunipatnam, the Bheemili beach is yet another jewel among the numerous picturesque seashores of Visakhapatnam.

Soft glowing golden sand, pulsating waves and peaceful atmosphere define the environment at this scenic beach. In addition to this, a fun-filled aura teemed with water sports like snorkelling, scuba diving,etc. are the features that attract many tourists to the Bheemili beach.

Known to the Dutch as Bimilipatnam, Bheemunipatnam was one among the major dutch settlements of the Dutch Coromandel coast in the 17th century. It was the main trading port of the east coast during the reign of East India Company and hence it is still one of the strategic ports of the Eastern coast. One can also spot a Dutch-style lighthouse that signifies the Dutch connect of the coastal region.

What makes the Bheemili beach special is the large number of sculptures and statues in concrete depicting various religious themes. From the statues of Pandavas to that of Buddha and his disciples, the sculptures redefine the ethnicity and culminate the various traditional icons of India.

To put it in a nutshell, Bheemili beach is the harbour of Visakhapatnam where one can find the various shades of beauty either in the form of thrilling sports or the artistic sculptures. What adds on to the prominence of the beach is the integrity of the citizens who ensure that this ethnic hub remains unsullied for everyone to cherish.

The Rock Cave Beach

Walking through the beautiful meadows at the Thotlakonda monastery, one can hardly miss the remarkable vast stretch of the rhythmic waves and the artistically cut out rock caves at the seashore of the dynamic sea. The Hinayana Buddhist complex flourished almost 2000 years ago at the coast of the Bay of Bengal at the soothing and calm rock cave beach of Thotlakonda. The Telugu name Toṭlakoṇḍa derived from the presence of a number of rock-cut cisterns hewn into the bedrock of the hillock. 

In the past few decades, the shore of Thotlakonda has undergone a transformation in terms of the establishment of restaurants and organisation of community programs. This has brought the human society and the marine world closer which in turn enhances the bond between the two important components of nature. With limited tourists visiting this seashore and the maintenance carried out by the commercial establishments, the beach boasts of its purity and exemplary scenic beauty. The marine life at Thotlakonda beach thrives healthily and beautifully with frequent visits by the crawling crabs and steady turtles. 

A crab underwater at Thotlakonda arch bridge 

Talking about the cultural influence of the beach and the adjoining monastery, Thotlakonda provides a perfect insight into the process of transoceanic diffusion of Indic culture, especially Buddhism. It was discovered during an aerial survey by the Indian Navy in order to set up a naval base. The curved coastline provides a strategic location to safely anchor the ships. Thus, this beach was considered to be one of the most significant spots on the eastern coast in terms of security as well as spirituality.

The sparkling and exemplary beach of Thotlakonda is because of the cumulative efforts of the administrative bodies as well as the responsible behaviour of the regional people. The locals of Thotlakonda have set an example for us that it is possible to retain the charm and splendour of the environmental elements with conscious human efforts and strong determination. We must learn from them and pledge to protect and preserve the bounty of nature from the selfish and greedy worldly intentions of human beings.

Ramakrishna Beach: The Beach of Destiny

Splashing cool waves lashing at the serene seashores. Aesthetic rocks embellishing the vast coast. The hub of various commercial sea activities and the most prominent and significant strategically located Eastern coastal port of the Indian Navy. Welcome to the realms of the mystical beaches of the  “city of destiny”- Visakhapatnam! 

Well known as the capital city of Andhra Pradesh and one of the most famous Software Parks of India, Visakhapatnam is also renowned for its natural scenic beauty especially the pristine water bodies that adorn the city with marine jewels. A visit to the City of Destiny is incomplete without visiting the hotspot of Visakhapatnam- The RK Beach. While Mumbai is famous for its Queen’s necklace, Visakhapatnam is popularly known for its extraordinarily clean and beautiful RK Beach drive. RK Beach gets its name from the Ramakrishna Mission ashram situated near the beach. It is one of the most crowded beaches in the country. With its serene waters and cool atmosphere, the beach offers a wonderful view of the countryside. 

What’s even more unique about this beach is that it has adopted various eco friendly techniques which include the planting of coconut trees on the sand! They not only add to the beauty of the beach but also provide soothing shade to the people. Annual fests and weekend concerts were a regular feature at this beach until the advent of the Corona pandemic. Large crowds of people gather at the beach to enjoy the calming waters and charming sunrise and sunset while resting on the beach beds. 

One of the most grave problems that prevail on this beach is that of erosion. From the past seven years the RK beach has faced major beach erosion challenges pertaining to the harsh cyclones that hit the coast frequently. With the help of World Bank Funds and the project report being prepared by Deltares, a Dutch consultancy in association with National Institute of Ocean Technology, there is a scope of large scale beach redevelopment in the near future.

Navy, Coast Guard, police and students form clean-up crew for Vizag beaches

Once the cleanest beach of Vizag, RK beach has become loaded with garbage in recent years as ignorant tourists and locals continue to dispose of their waste on the shore even though the provision of wet and dry dustbins exists. Frequent campaigns and cleanliness drives by student organisations regularly carry out the tidying of the beaches and create awareness about the necessity of keeping our beaches clean and free of the plastic menace.

Despite the few imperfections in the conditions of the beach, the optimum utilisation of solar energy is remarkable. With solar charged illuminated benches and traffic signals, the potential of tapping the most abundant source of energy is being carried out to the fullest. However, it is the need of the hour to take immediate action to ensure that the serenity of the beach is not lost forever. For this, it is extremely important to instill a sense of belongingness and care towards the natural gifts that are bestowed on us by Mother Nature, in the minds of the people in order to restore this beach’s cleanliness. This will also help provide a safe and healthy environment for a variety of marine organisms that thrive in and near the sea. With continuous efforts by not only the administrative bodies but also by WE the responsible citizens of our Motherland, it is definite that the beach of destiny will soon triumph back to its original beauty.

Liberating Chennai’s Bottled Up Coastline

Beaches are not just vast stretches of sands, they’re a habitat! They ain’t a dustbin, ocean ain’t a landfill. Every bottle, plastic bag, straw, tampon, Plaster of Paris Idol we dump is killing a turtle, dugong, whale and countless fish.

E.F.I in collaboration with the Greater Chennai Corporation and the HCL Foundation have taken on the task of reviving Chennai’s coastlines!

On 9th November 2020 (Monday), a day-long labour-based cleanup was conducted to clear glass bottles found in the beach. Close to 2000 glass bottles were removed from the beach!

We thank all those who supported us in this effort!

Volunteer for India and her Environment with E.F.I, Jai Hind

Marine Plastics are destroying our Blue Economy

Blue economy is a term that refers to all economic activities related to oceans, seas and coasts and the interlinked benefits around biodiversity , coastal protection and its precious natural heritage.

Indian Agriculture and its allied industries contribute to around 20% of India’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product is the total value of goods and services produced in a country). The allied industry consists of forestry, animal husbandry, natural resources and fisheries . The Blue economy directly linked to fisheries and ocean resources is estimated to contribute to around 4% of our GDP which is ~100 Billion USD (7 lakh crore INR).

And why is the blue economy in focus ?

Typical ocean activities are around fisheries, tourism and maritime transport . Fisheries have harmed our oceans ; fish catches have gone down and 87 % of our fish stocks are over-exploited. Let us consider Aquaculture. Aquaculture refers to water farming, breeding, harvesting fish, shellfish, aquatic plants etc. is a growing economy critical to the food security of our poorest people. Aquaculture provides more than half of all fish consumed with 63%  of production in freshwater (mostly in ponds on land), 28% in marine waters, and 9% in coastal ponds.

To improve our blue economy , we need to accelerate our focus on emerging areas such as offshore renewable wind energy(ocean energy), marine biotechnology and Bioprospecting (usage of medicinal plants for healthcare).Not only will these prevent rapid degradation of our ocean resources but spur our governments and public sectors to invest and create new employment and development opportunities.

Looking at India’s projected population growth, such measures are needed for improving the social and economic status of our current and future generations. The picture below shows the importance of  ‘blue economy’ as the seventh largest contributor to our global economy.

Marine plastics are hurting our oceans:

Due to ineffective waste management of plastic on land , smaller particles of plastics called as Microplastics ends up in our oceans . A concerning fact is 80% of the debris in our oceans is from plastic .

A bigger problem is the volume of plastic pollutants from Textile, Tourism, Fishing and Shipping Industries . The table below summarizes the extent of marine pollution from these industries .

India’s Initiatives :

Though India has committed to a ban of single-use plastic by 2022 and uses about 14 million tons of plastic annually, there is a lack of an organized system for management of plastic waste . Blanket bans are ineffective as alternatives are not immediately available and so it is a multi-step process for phasing-out of plastics.

India has 7500 kilometers of coastline and has established national and regional campaigns to measure marine plastic footprint and take steps towards a plastic pollution free India. The Sagarmala program is a port modernization program to enhance the capacity of India’s ports and power the blue economy. Implementation of sustainable fisheries, conservation of biodiversity, enforcement of strict environmental laws with respect to pollution is a key aspect of Sagarmala but coastal industrialization programs have adverse impacts on marine ecology and strong alignment between governments, policy makers and engaged research scientists is need of the hour.

Blue Carbon is here to help ….

Mangroves are salt tolerant trees with inter-wining branches found along our coastlines and is known to store carbon, improve water quality and provide protection against floods and storms. Mangroves are super-hero trees and have an enormous capacity to suck up carbon-dioxide from air and covert to biomass in the form of thick, heavy layers of carbon-rich soil that stays waterlogged and does not rot . Promoting Mangroves along our coastal ecosystems and declaring them as protected and reserved forests is essential.

Pichavaram mangroves in TamilNadu

Technology to our rescue ….

A new study reveals that plastic-eating super enzymes can break-down plastics in a few days. Scientists are engineering a super plastic-eater by stitching together the DNA found from plastic eating bacteria into one enzyme that can breakdown plastic quickly . Nature’s most affected are several species of marine life and we humans must help save them. How quickly these solutions would come to the market and leveraged by our industries remains to be seen.

Plastics impacting marine life- Seabird in picture

In conclusion…It is indeed disheartening to see slow progress of mega government projects, lack of governance by our local municipalities ,careless public attitude towards garbage disposal and the cleanliness levels of our localities and the sea of litter that often surrounds us. Strong governance and investment in technologies that help our natural habitats can accelerate our progress towards a cleaner society .

We are grappling with a world-wide problem and need to come together as a civil society and break the plastic wave that is endangering our planet. It is important to recognize that this marine pollution topic has cross-boundary impacts with global plastic supply chains and our careful consumer attitudes with respect to consumption and safe disposal of plastic products is key to a sustainable marine life.

Chennai’s Blue Revolution has begun!

Chennai’s coasts play a vital role when it comes to the marine ecosystem of India. Consisting of vast stretches of beaches, they serve as nesting grounds for the critically endangered Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, and several other marine species. Owing to rapid urbanization, these beaches have today become a tourist attraction, which has caused countless people to visit these serene beaches.

The only problem, we have been throwing our trash into the ocean, and on these beaches, making them heavily polluted.

E.F.I in collaboration with the Greater Chennai Corporation and the HCL Foundation have taken on the task of reviving Chennai’s coastlines! On 7th November, a small group of residents from Chennai had volunteered to clean the beach stretch between the Ashtalakshmi Temple Beach and the Arupadai Temple Beach.

A total of 350 kg of plastic waste and glass bottles were cleared from this beach stretch in just a matter of 2 hours!

Before and After Comparison!

We thank all those who volunteered with us to clean our beaches!

Volunteer for India and her Environment with E.F.I, Jai Hind!