The sea holds no mystery for Mini, a resident of Kattoor beach in Alappuzha. Nor does sea erosion, to which she is accustomed to for the past more than two decades of her life.
But with unabated rains this monsoon resulting in the sea breaching two levels of protective sea walls and washing away scores of houses, Mini appears terrified. “The sound of the roaring sea slapping against the back of our house has deprived us of sleep for the past more than a month. We are scared to death for our lives but we cannot afford to think of moving to a relief camp with two daughters,” she says.
Her husband Martin, a fisherman, has been doing nothing but spreading sandbags to keep the marauding waves at bay. With the sea literally devouring the shore by the day, sand has become a precious commodity, depriving them of the slightest defence. The families along the beach have cut down hundreds of coconut trees to prevent the giant waves from taking away chunks of sand along with the uprooted trees.
‘Nowhere to go’
Raynold Vellappanad finds no security or comfort inside his house. Built under the tsunami rehabilitation package, the house has developed countless cracks. “We have never seen such a furious sea in the past more than three decades. We have been asked to move out, but we don’t have anywhere else to go,” he says.
Mary, his wife, said the foundation of the house had been weakened by a crater formed nearby due to sea erosion.
Adults and youngsters in the area have just one job on their hands these days — to lay sandbags on the shore and to wait for the irrigation department to supply stones to shore up the seawall.
Mary Joseph, who moved away from the shore recently, blamed the apathy of the authorities concerned for the plight of the people. “After the ban on trawling deprived people of their livelihood, the sea erosion made things worse. Despite all this, no free ration is being provided to these people,” she says.
Jestintha can only watch helplessly as the waves threaten to gobble up her rickety house, which stands on a cliff with the sand underneath almost washed away.
“The sea has become so unpredictable that the water level rises as we watch it. The waves at times assume a thick black colour and the very sight of it is scary,” she says.
Benny, another resident along the coast, says they have been left to fend for themselves in such a time. They have to bear the cost of laying a dirt track to facilitate the movement of excavators to the shore to rearrange the seawall.
Only one thing interests people here these days — how far the sea has receded. For them, it’s a matter of life and death.