KOLLAM: Near the confluence of Kallada river and Astamudi lake resides a couple, Alice, 65 and Christopher, 71, on the St Thomas Island at Koivila East. They have been living in their house number 341 on this island for the past 38 years. However, for the last 12 years, they have been the only inhabitants of this sinking island.
“Around 10 families were living here earlier. We came here when my youngest son was a year old. A few years ago, the houses started sinking and it was declared a flood zone area, after which, gradually, the other families left the island,” says Alice.
The houses got power connection only 12 years ago. But by then, the residents had started migrating to other islands and to town. Now house number 341 is the only house that remains with its inhabitants and a cat. The couple’s four children whose marriages were conducted here, have settled elsewhere.“We have a country boat in which we travel from here to the other side. Alice was suffering from breast cancer, she got fine after the tumour was removed. But that left her weak,” Christopher said.
“We want to leave this place as it is not safe. Since no one is ready to accept our land as it is of no use we are forced to stay here. The only people who visit us here are our children, some passing tourists and partymen during elections,” he added.
The island falls under Koivila East ward number 11, under Thevalakkara gram panchayat. The recent flood had submerged most of the houses on the island.“Though during that time we were shifted to our relative’s place we did not receive any compensation which was provided to the flood victims,” said Alice.
“The representatives who visit us every time come with a new proposal and promises but nothing has been implemented,” she said. The couple are waiting to get out of the island and shift to a safer place. Meanwhile, a local body official leaves it to the couple to decide.
Koivila East ward member, Jose Henry, said that the fisher couple have many options to apply and move out. “The panchayat has been providing homes to the homeless and landless people under the state government’s LIFE mission. However, they have not applied for any of these benefits. We are still ready to provide any help to the couple. But they have to take some initiative,” he said.