EDAKOCHI: Besides water shortage, a major problem that troubles the residents here is the deposition of sediments (ekkel) along the banks of the backwaters - a death trap that is gradually nudging the fishermen community into poverty.
Ekkel is a slushy mass of sediments that had migrated to the backwaters in Edakochi and the surrounding areas as a result of dredging at Vallarpadam. Dredging is carried out to make the waterways navigable by excavating the seabed. During the process, only 55 percent of the dug out bottom sediments get disposed of and the remaining dirt flow out according to the current.
Due to the irregular banks at Edakochi, the sediments get accumulated there and over the years, it has attained width and depth. Now, the ekkel deposits stretch up to 20 metres into the water and has made it dangerous for the fishermen to go into the water with their boats.
Because of this quagmire-like stretch along the banks, the fishermen depend on ropes tied between trees on the land and stumps in the water to draw the boats through the ekkel deposits.
The exercise is strenuous and dangerous. If the rope snaps and the puller falls head down into slush, it will most certainly lead to his death. Last year alone, two such deaths were reported from this region.
Also, a high concentration of sediments over the years of accumulation has brought down the oxygen content in the water, driving fish away from the backwaters.
“The quantity of fish here has dwindled by a large extent. Before dredging at Vallarpadam, if I spend five, six hours in the water, I would fetch up to 50 kg of fish. But these days, I barely get 5 kg with the same effort,” said K R Ramesh, a fisherman and president of Matsya Thozhilali Sahakarana Sangham at Edakochi.
With a drastic fall in fish population, the fishermen here are forced to look for unfamiliar and poorly-paid jobs to provide for their families.
Moreover, with the ekkel lining the banks, it has become easier for people to encroach into the lake. According to the residents here, several families living along the banks have extended their property into the water by filling up the ekkel-laden banks.