KASARAGOD: Ameer Mohammed Moosa, 37, had been returning to the Moosodi beach every day to check on the house he and his family vacated one week ago fearing the fiery sea. Two days ago, Ameer salvaged the windows and doors. "I knew our house would fall this time," he said.
Yet, when the two-storey building collapsed before his eyes Saturday morning, it was hard to accept. The house -- in which Ameer, his two sisters and mother lived -- was devoured by the sea in five seconds.
Ameer's father Moosa, who runs a small restaurant in Mumbai, built the house on 27 cents 15 years ago. Back then, the sea was 300m away, he said.
In the past five years, the sea started advancing and has destroyed 21 houses on Moosodi beach, said Mohammed Hussain, member of Moosodi ward in Mangalpady beach. "The coastal erosion in Moosodi started around the same time when the harbour came up 500 metres away," he said.
An hour after Moosa's house dissolved into the sea, the house of Beefathima (60) came down. She and her two daughters shifted out of the house three weeks ago. "Seven more houses may collapse if the cyclone Tauktae does not abate," said Hussain. "The worst is the monsoon is yet to start," he said.
Residents said the Department of Revenue promised Rs 10 lakh as compensation to people whose houses have collapsed but not all of them get money. "There are three categories of people. Some who have not got money, many who have got only a part of the compensation, and a few who have got the full compensation," said the panchayat member.
Ameer said he lost his job in the Gulf a few years ago and was still trying to find his feet. "My father does not have money to build another house," he said.
The residents said the government should have built safety structures first to protect their houses before building the harbour.
Engineering a disaster?
In the past 24 hours, Kasaragod district received 97mm of rain. According to a statement issued by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) at 1 pm on Saturday, the sea will be rough because of the cyclone, which will intensify into a severe cyclonic storm in the next six hours and then into a very severe cyclonic storm within the next 12 hours.
Extreme levels of rainfall and strong winds are expected along the Kerala coast as the effects of the cyclone will continue till May 16.
Several residents of Moosodi said they had seen worse cyclones but they started losing their land to the sea only after the harbour started coming up.
The New Indian Express reached out to an official in the Harbour Engineering Department to know if Manjeshwar harbour, 500m away from Moosodi beach, was the reason for the havoc.
He said any harbour would disrupt the landscape of the place. "When Manjeshwar harbour was built, a new beach was formed on the northern side of the harbour. But the southern side, where Moosodi beach is, started eroding. That usually happens," he said.
He said the department was constructing 17 breakwaters -- each 100m long -- perpendicular to the coast with a deadline of June 2022. "We have almost constructed eight breakwaters and nine more will be built only to protect Moosodi. There is no other purpose for them," he said.
When asked why the breakwaters were not considered before the harbour, he said that's how the government worked. "When a harbour project is submitted, it includes the remedial measures. But the funds are sanctioned in tranches and initially, the money is released only for the harbour, and remedial measures are implemented at a later stage," he said.
The state has around 24 harbours and in all these places there is this issue of erosion, he said. Having said that, harbours are not the only reason for coastal erosion. "Extreme weather, cyclones, climate change, type of soil and height of a place all play a role," he said. "But harbours get all the blame because they are the only visible construction," he said.