"In the two months that they began work, water has risen by three feet. They have already reclaimed about five metres of land and we hear that they plan do reclaim more. What will happen in the monsoon?" said Dinesh Shetty, a resident of the area.

A large number of people living in Melukoppala and Athrebail on the banks of the Phalguni (popularly called Gurupur river) near Kuloor fear that their houses might get inundated in the coming monsoon as land was being reclaimed on the opposite side.

Melukoppala and Athrebail areas are spread across a two-kilometre strip of land along the Gurupur river (on the Kuloor church side of the river) and comprise more than 300 households (including 10 houses of Scheduled Caste families).

Residents of the two areas told The Hindu that mud being dumped in the river along the KIOCL-Jokatte railway gate road to widen the existing road had raised the water level on their side of the river. The road is being widened by Mangalore Special Economic Zone Limited.

“In the two months that they began work, water has risen by three feet. They have already reclaimed about five metres of land and we hear that they plan do reclaim more. What will happen in the monsoon?” said Dinesh Shetty, a resident of the area. The local people fear that the land reclaimed by the road would narrow the river channel, resulting in an artificial flooding during the monsoon.

Pointing to the Kuloor bridge, an elderly man said: “Look at how narrow the river is under the bridge. How will the monsoon water flow through that? It will flood the banks and inundate our houses.”

Rita D'Souza, said the river had eroded land in their area when the KIOCL-Jokatte road was originally built in 1996. In the last five years it had advanced more, she said.

Along the pathway, several trees could be seen inundated by the river, she said.

A small island in the river named Thokur Kudru with four households is likely to be severely affected. Avil D'Souza, who lives on the island said the families living on the island already faced problems during the monsoon, and if the water rose artificially because of the dumping of the mud in the river, they would not be able to cultivate anything.

Protests

Ms. D'Souza and other residents of the area said that they wanted the land reclamation to stop immediately and had even staged protests at the spot twice. They said that if the reclamation could not be stopped, then they wanted a proper retaining wall to protect their houses.

Deputy Commissioner N.S. Channappa Gowda told The Hindu that the MSEZ had permission from the State government to widen the road. He said he would ask the Mangalore City Corporation to look into the grievance of the Melukoppala-Athrebailu residents and would initiate action accordingly.

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