KOCHI: Bindu, an Anganwadi teacher, recounts the perilous journey she took the night before her delivery on a country boat. She held on to her life and that of her unborn child, praying to reach the hospital before it was too late.
This might sound disturbing for most, but for the folks at Thanthonnithuruth, an island barely a kilometre away from Marine Drive, life has been such for a very long time. Much has been written about their plight but change still is a dream for the 67 families living there.
Though a tender was floated to construct a 10-m wide bridge in 2010, nothing has happened yet. A hi-tech terminal of Kochi Water Metro Project has also been proposed at the island. This, if materialises, would improve their quality of life. But, that too is a far-fetched idea at this point.
Life post floods
Everyday at 8:20 am, residents here wait for the only boat that plies to the city. “Our life is scheduled based on boat timings. Since there is only a boat, even a minute’s delay can spoil our plans,” said Kairali, a resident.
This is besides the damage wrecked by 2018 floods. “Last year’s flood damaged a part of my house but no one came here to help rebuild it. It’s is difficult to bring construction materials to our place due to connectivity issues,” added Kairali. A part of the island was destroyed in last year’s floods, but no repair work has been undertaken yet.
The lack of connectivity has forced many to leave the island for the city. Around eight to nine families have shifted, mainly because the youngsters don’t get good marriage proposals. “Once a dead body fell into the lake while taking for cremation. Students from our place always get punished for coming late in schools,” said Subhaiya, a social worker. This being the situation, most houses here own a country boat. “This is the only way we can live here. We learn to row right from childhood. But, after a certain age, even that becomes impossible,” said Kumari, a 60-year old resident of Thuruth.
A forgotten proposal
Though the tender was passed for the construction of a 10m-wide bridge, the plan got stalled. The residents have been demanding an outer bund road that can prevent flooding during rain and tide.
According to residents, a 6 crore-worth project was passed to construct outer bunds along the island but it didn’t materialise due to environmental issues. “To lay the pipeline, some part of the mangroves had to be removed. So, the plan got stalled,” said a social worker.
Meanwhile, councillor Ansa James said she has been working towards materialising development projects for the past three years.
“The Corporation approves plans and sets an estimate. However, the contractors do not agree to that amount. Since there is no connectivity to the island, the expense increases and contractors will not cooperate,” she said.
The councillor also alleged cancellation of rides without prior notice, leaving residents stranded. However, the officials from State Water Transport Department said they cancel rides only if there are technical glitches with the boat.