THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the sea erosion hitting the Valiyathura coast on Wednesday, the houses of Solomon and Simpson have become uninhabitable. The unfulfilled promises by the government to build a seawall at the coast triggered youth and women from Valiyathura to protest in front of the Public Office Building. Valiyathura, the only port along the south Kerala coast, before Kochi became the major port, cannot even be considered as a fishing port now.
According to the parish priest of St Antony's Forane Church, the continuous sea erosion occurring in the coast for the past eight to nine years have destroyed five lanes of houses. "The five lanes which include 200 houses till 2017 have been destructed due to sea erosion. In 2018, the coast lost around 18 houses and till date, the shore lost eight houses in March and two houses on Wednesday," said Fr Melkon, parish priest at St Antony's Forane Church.
The authorities had promised to look into the issue soon after the elections. "The government is taking no interest in resolving the issue. Minister of Cooperation Kadakampally Surendran has promised to address the issue before the rough sea season, but no action has been taken in this regard," said Francis Albert, one of the protesters.
In the absence of action from the government, few residents are depositing stones on the coast at their own expense. "We took money on loan to deposit stones to protect our houses. Ten loads of stones were required to protect my house alone. One load costs B7,000. Depositing stones is the only way to protect my house from the rough sea," said Joseph Gregory whose house is on the verge of collapse.
A total of B69 lakh was passed for protecting the coast from the government. But none of the contractors were willing to accept work. The tender was rejected thrice. "We brought a contract for the sea wall but the department was unwilling to pay the money. It will take six months to one year to receive the money after the completion of work and the same has got delayed," said Joy David from Valiyathura.
Citing the delayed process, the ward councillor of Bheemapally, Bheemapally Rasheed, said, "I tried my best to convince the higher officials regarding the matter. The situation is an emergency and the government should take actions to consider the issue rather giving importance to the norms."
However, the chief engineer of Irrigation and Administration said, "As a temporary solution, the residents can deposit sacks filled with clay. With the sanctioned B69 lakh, a coastal wall will be built on the left side of the pier. On an emergency basis, a new proposal will be submitted by the residents for a 100-meter of the coastal area on the right side before 29 April. The tender will be called by May 15 and the process will begin soon."
The protesters are not happy with the decision. "We have been hearing this decision for a long time. However, we want the government to provide us with clay loads which can protect our houses from the sea erosion until the coastal wall process begins," said Tony, one of the protesters.