KOCHI: During the flood that crippled Kerala last year, the determination of fishermen had saved the lives of hundreds. Nevertheless, the residents of Nayarambalam panchayat, mostly inhabited by fisherfolk, have a story of harsh neglect to tell.Shuttling between relief camps and homes has become a regular ordeal for them with them moving to relief camps four times in October alone.
“We went back home on Thursday evening and came back on Friday around 2 am. We had just finished cleaning the houses when water started rising again,” said Johnson, a resident. Eighty-eight-year-old Celine, who is bedridden, had to be carried to the camp on a stretcher each time water level went up. At the camp with her 40-something son who suffers from Alzheimer’s, she is one among many who wishes to have safety under their roof.
Repeated sea attacks due to weak seawalls and shredded breakwaters (pulimuttu) and waterlogging due to canals clogged with sand and waste that seeps in during flooding are casting a shadow of disaster on this coastal village.
The residents of Nayarambalam are now housed mainly at two relief camps- Bhagavathy Vilasam Higher Secondary School and Devi Vilasam UP School.The latter hosts 923 people from 143 houses of ward number 12, according to panchayat member Anil Kumar.
“Usually, people are assigned duty to cook and clean at relief camps. But here, people have taken it up as their responsibility and are keeping the system going. Sixteen panchayat members and revenue department are giving all the support. This is our eighth camp, and we are now at ease with this,” he adds. Officials from the family health centre, who are now stationed at the facility, confirm that chances of sudden epidemic or infection cannot be ignored since people are clustered in camps often.Students of both primary schools have been missing classes since the buildings have been indefinitely transformed into relief camps.
When quizzed, MLA S Sarma said the state administration has already started the procedure to reconstruct 18 breakwaters on the Munambam beach stretch.
“A team from IIT Madras will submit a report about the same in December, and we are hoping to float the tender in January. It is a `25-crore project which will bring a permanent solution to this problem,” he said.
He added that alternatively, the government is providing a 10-lakh rehabilitation plan for those willing to relocate away from the sea walls. “This includes `6 lakh for three cents of land. A sum of `4 lakh will immediately be provided for building a house,” he added.
Road to neglect
The plight of Nayarambalam residents is worsened by the terrible condition of the coastal road that connects most of the houses to schools and the primary health centre. Despite pleas in this regard for the last 13 years, there have been no efforts to reinstate the infrastructure, claim locals. “This road is our only option to carry sick people or for children to go to school. They have unloaded construction materials to fool us, so we will take that and fill up these potholes ourselves,” said Rosy, who is also a member of rural employment guarantee scheme. In the first week of October, residents of the area had protested the condition of the road by catching fish from the puddle of mud water in front of Bhavana Anganwadi and bathing in it. However, S Sarma said tenders for reviving the coastal road has been floated and work will commence as soon as the rain subsides.