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From heritage site to a dump yard

The 400-year-old Jewish cemetery near St Teresa’s College has become a garbage dumping yard

Published: 12th December 2017 09:47 PM  |   Last Updated: 13th December 2017 07:40 AM   |  A+A-

Weeds have taken over the old Jewish cemetery  Albin Mathew

Express News Service

KOCHI: The 400-year-old heritage site near St Teresa’s College here will not easily attract the attention of a passer-by. All thanks to the thick vegetation enveloping the 2-acre expanse.Such is the sad state of affairs of the oldest Jewish cemetery in Kochi. To make matters worse, the place of historic importance has become a garbage dumping yard for nearby residents and passers-by. In fact, the canteen of St Teresa’s College itself allegedly dumps waste into the cemetery premises, which is now home to plastic bags, waste food and whatnot. 

Obviously, many are displeased. “The utter disregard shown to such an important site is appalling. The property belongs to the Archaeology Department. A signboard at the site said as much. However, the board is nowhere to be seen now,” said Josephhai Abraham (Sam), President, Association of Kerala Jews. 
St Teresa’s College authorities had a different story to tell. But first, they refuted the dumping charges.
“The college has three waste-disposal plants. Besides, the Corporation collects waste from here regularly,” was what Sr Vinitha CSST, director of the college, said.

“We face a different problem from the cemetery. There are snakes lurking in the thick vegetation and we see them often on the school premises and even in the nearby canal road. Since the college is well-kept, we spot the reptiles,” she said.“We had requested the Corporation to let us clean the place some years ago. The decision was not in our favour. Our students are in danger from the cemetery property which is infested with overgrown weeds,” said Sr Vinitha. 

“If the cemetery is cleaned, the college is ready to maintain the property to ensure snakes and other reptiles stay away from there,” she said.The Archaeology Department had cleaned the premises six months ago and the signboard was in place back then. But the property reverted back to its old state in no time. 
“People dump waste into the property and have even destroyed the board. We have made plans to clean the place again. The work will begin in two weeks,” said J Rejikumar, director of the department.  

A permanent solution, however, remains elusive. “I will raise the issue in the next Assembly session. The place is a heritage site and must be protected and respected. I have brought it to the notice of the minister concerned. I hope for a decision soon. If well-maintained, the cemetery can be part of tourism too,” said Hibi Eden MLA.Nevertheless, the maintenance of the place remains to be the main issue. Unless a permanent solution is found, all efforts will be short-term. Amid allegations and counter-allegations, the oldest cemetery of the Jewish community in Kochi is suffering.

The utter disregard shown to such an important site is appalling. The property belongs to the Archaeology Department. A signboard at the site said as much. However, the board is nowhere to be seen now

— Josephhai Abraham (Sam), president, Association of Kerala Jews

We had requested the Corporation to let us clean the place some years ago. The decision was not in our favour. Our students are in danger from the cemetery property which is infested with overgrown weeds

–Sr Vinitha CSST, director, St Teresa’s College



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