Waves crashing against the shore is nothing new for the inhabitants of two of Orissa's seaside tourist resorts---Puri and Gopalpur.

But what they have been witnessing for the last few months has come as a shock.

"The sea has been behaving in an unnatural manner with high waves lashing against the coast and damaging structures. It seems the sea is inching inside", said Jagannath Bastia, an environmental activist, who is a resident of the pilgrim town since long.

While the sea waves have washed away nearly 500 metres of a newly-constructed road on the outskirts of Puri, several walls of hotels and a lighthouse at Gopalpur, down south in Ganjam district, have collapsed under the pounding of the sea.

"I have been observing this phenomenon since August last year, but no action has been initiated about it", Bastia, who is the president of the Beach Protection Council of Orissa, told.

There have been reports about the Bay of Bengal eroding the coast in the Satbhaya area of Kendrapara district and swallowing up at least five of the seven coastal villages in a cluster over the last few years.

However, this was something new in towns like Puri and Gopalpur where the administration was monitoring the situation with concern.

"We are watching the situation and a senior scientist of the environment department would be studying the matter before any step is taken in this regard", director of the state's Environment Department," B.K. Patnaik said.

A study conducted recently by the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa, had said that 23 per cent of India's shoreline was getting eroded with four states---Maharashtra, Orissa, Karnataka and Kerala being the worst affected.

In Orissa, over 100 km out of the state's 480-km coastline was facing erosion while the problem was more acute in Kerala, the study revealed.

It also said that the growth of long sand pits at the Chilika Lagoon on the coast indicated littoral movement and subsequent silt deposition.

The sediment transport rate at Gopalpur was also found to be similar to that observed at Puri, the findings said.

Bastia said the Beach Protection Council of India had drawn the attention of the state government and several known institutes of the country to the problem of coastal erosion.

"But unfortunately, the state government is yet to wake up to the situation," he said.

Bastia said that his organisation, besides writing to the Forest and Environment Department, had requested NIO, Goa, National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, Hyderabad and Institute for Ocean Management of Anna University, Chennai, to study the phenomenon.

"We have also requested the government to invite experts from these institutions to visit the Orissa coast and seek their opinion in the matter", he said.

Besides, the state Coastal Zone Management Authority, of which Bastia is a member, had demanded that an expert team should be deputed to Puri and Gopalpur to study the erosion.

Within the last fortnight, the sea had devoured a large portion of the road in Puri linking Baliapanda with Sipasarubali--- where a tourist resort is proposed to be developed--- causing panic among the inhabitants.

The road had been constructed recently even as new buildings, apartment blocks and hotels were coming up in the areas as the resort town was expanding.

Six new buildings are now facing direct threat from the sea, the local people said.

"This road was washed away as it was built very close to the sea", Bastia said while alleging that the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms had been violated in the process.

The Puri and Gopalpur beaches fell under CRZ category two, he said.

Bastia, however, expressed grave concern about the situation in Penthakata area of the town where a population of about 20,000 fishermen were living virtually on the edge of the sea.