Atrelbail on the banks of Gurupur river faces threat of deluge during monsoon

It is a few kilometres off the highway within the city — with the towering effigies of modernism spewing out smoke on the other end of the river — and yet, Atrelbail near Kuloor feels like worlds apart.

Traversing the cattle trail that skirts Gurupura river, it is hard to imagine this is the only way in and out of the hamlet that lines the river from Kuloor to Maravoor. The trail weaves through houses, comes dangerously close to precipices carved out by the river, and even close to tiled-roof homes that were damaged by river swells. The trail is a lifeline for the hamlet, and on this, children, senior citizens, working men and women tread carefully everyday to work in Mangalore or nearby Baikampady Industrial Estate.

It is no wonder that with long-pending demands — for a road and an embankment to protect them from flooding during the monsoon — having been ignored, numerous residents have decided to boycott the upcoming elections.

“For the past two decades we have been asking for some development here. MLAs have assured us during the elections, but have not even visited us since,” said Dinesh Shetty of the Atrelbail Malekoppala Nagarika Samiti. Around 200 members of the organisation have said they will mark ‘none of the above’ in the ballot list of the Mangalore North constituency, while, around 800 other residents are expected to follow suit.

Their problems began a few years ago with the construction of a road on the other side of the river that would lead to the upcoming Mangalore Special Economic Zone. To extend the road, the authorities have been reclaiming land from the river, Mr. Shetty said, and because of this the river has started to expand on this side.

One of its consequences was seen on June 19, 2012, when heavy flooding destroyed three houses here. “There is no retention wall to protect us. Politicians promise this, but do not deliver,” he said.

For the villagers, a plaque recording the inauguration of a 100-m embankment wall in 2010 is a cruel joke portraying their neglect.

“MP, MLA held a grand function for this, and said they would take up embankment of the entire stretch (around four kilometres). No construction has happened since,” said Honnayya Poojary, a resident.

Leela Poojary, who claims two acres in front of her house have disappeared, said every year the river inches towards her house. With a one-year-old child tucked in her arms, Dayavati looks morosely at her crumbling house. One part of the tiled-roof house has caved in, while the river eats away slowly into the now-exposed foundations. “It’s very scary living here. Especially during the rains,” she said.

Their anger was visible in the urban local body elections, when two BJP corporators were voted out. “We supported the candidates who had worked for us. In the Assembly election, not one candidate had helped us in our cause. Why then should be support them?” said Mr. Shetty.

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