Sea erosion is a constant enemy for those on Kerala coast

Sea erosion is a constant enemy for those on Kerala coast

 “It went this high before crashing down,” Antony says as he swings arms dramatically over his head in a falling arc. He is reliving the surging waves as they destroyed and damaged houses earlier this month in Valiathura, one of Thiruvananthapuram’s coastal areas.

The 65-year-old man says this is the roughest he has seen the sea. For Mary, a housewife, it’s a regular monsoon day as she gets busy clearing slush around her little home. She doesn’t sound keen on moving into a relief camp. “I can’t abandon my house,” she says curtly.

A day after Union Minister Shashi Tharoor and members of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) visited the coastal regions of the city, any talk on a safer tomorrow is met with a curious mix of drama and detachment. Houses in the first row on the coast have taken the biggest hit but residents in the second and third rows are far from safe. Gerald, a fisherman who lives in a concrete house off the coast, says the relief measures are “okay” but it would take more to check the sea that has been erasing the coast rapidly over the years.

“Relief measures and compensation are being allocated according to the severity of loss but instead of these temporary steps, we want stronger walls to protect us from the sea,” Rani, a housewife, told Deccan Herald on Wednesday. More than 500 people have already been moved into two neighbourhood schools doubling up as relief camps.

The walls – rocks lined up along the first row of houses – are increasingly proving inadequate. The filth the waves bring home is adding to the gloom. Selvamary, who claims she has been making her own list of “deserving” beneficiaries, says all’s not well with the annual relief and relocation drives. “There are people who live in houses off the coast and still, put together makeshift structures in the first row because they could claim a house in return when these structures are destroyed,” she says. This, when families with infants live in rented one-room structures perilously close to the rough sea. They can’t claim houses in return because they are “tenants” in these properties.

“There have been some allegations of favouritism too but we can’t be bothered; we just want a long-term solution,”says Stephen.

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