Kuthirakkoorkkari, which is close to Kochi, still fights for its share of drinking water supply and pukka road

Anyone entering the island of Kuthirakkoorkkari from by the Nambiapuram Road is first confronted by a splendid picture of the Kochi backwaters. The visitor will quickly be brought down to earth by the sight of a narrow, rough road that makes its way south towards where nearly 80 families on the island live.

The metalled road disappears into a slushy, winding walkway further south at the point where a large number of women have gathered on Tuesday morning to collect water from a tanker lorry.

The pots are filled and taken to homes lying further south of the island at a fast pace and without the usual banter in a crowd of people. Their concentration is on negotiating the narrow walkway and avoiding little pools of water formed from overnight rains.

This is what the island, which is close to Kochi and west of Palluruthy, has looked like for more than half-a-century. The islanders have lived without reliable water supply and a proper road. Their bitterness is evident on a poster at the water collection point which blames the indifference of people’s representatives to the plight of islanders.

Fifty-two-year-old Victoria, who is carrying a pot of water to her home, about 400 metres from the point where the tanker lorry has halted, says the islanders have seen only hard times. The pathway that takes her home is better in the mornings before the high tide comes in, flooding most of the way and courtyards of homes close to the shore line.

Hundreds of women like her walk these dark and slippery road every day fetching water, ferrying children to schools and back, taking the sick to hospitals and bringing daily provisions.

Dominic Presentation, MLA, said the Ernakulam District Panchayat had sanctioned Rs. 25 lakh for tarring the road, about 1.5 km that will address a part of the problem faced by the islanders.

K.J. Leenus, member of the District Panchayat from Kumbalanghi, said the road work had been tendered and it would be completed before the end of the financial year.

But people are a little sceptical. Member of the Chellanam panchayat Shany Cleetus of the CPI (M) said there had always been talks of the road being improved but nothing had happened so far.

Laloo, a carpenter by profession, said auto drivers refuse to come to the island from places like Palluruthy Veli due to bad roads. Even if they come, they charge an exorbitant Rs.100 a trip, said M. T. Satchidanandan, a member of the local committee of the CPI (M).

The movement of the islanders has also been hit by the suspension of a country boat service that operated between Konam and Kuthirakkoorkkari. The boat service, operated by the panchayat, has been suspended for about three years.

Mr. Presentation said a permanent solution to the problem of shortage of drinking water could be solved only with the commissioning of the drinking water scheme under the JNNURM along with the proposed water tank at Kandakkadavu.

Though the deadline for completion of the project is January next there are indications that the project may further be delayed. Being surrounded by salt water, the islanders have no other source of water other than takers.

Ms. Cleetus said there was no piped water on the island over the last three years though water was available at the Kalathara Junction. Several rounds of talks with Kerala Water Authority and agitation by the people had not seen their dream turn true.

President of the Chellanam Panchayat K.P. Thankachan said the recent commissioning of a desalination plant on the island had helped meet the requirements of about 150 families.

More In: Kochi