Tribespeople of Thodumala seek bridge to cross the Neyyar river

For the past several years, nearly 650 tribal families in the hilly terrains of Thodumala, near Amboori, around 40 km from here, have been knocking on all doors to draw the attention of the authorities to the need for a bridge across the Neyyar to avoid risky boat rides to reach their settlements.

Their plea to construct a bridge connecting Thodumala to Charukkupara Changadakadavu and Kumbilkal Kadavu (two points nearest to Amboori) have not yielded the desired result. Their (Kanikar tribespeople) only mode of transport to reach the mainland is canoes positioned in the foothills of Thodumala at Charukkupara Changadakadavu and Kumbilkal Kadavu. The absence of ferrymen on certain days has forced schoolchildren and even elderly persons to row the canoes themselves, said R. Krishnan Kutty Kani of Thodumala.

A few years ago, Sajo, a Class IV student from the Thenmala settlement of Thodumala, drowned in the Neyyar while rowing a small boat along with his brother, recalled Mr. Kani.

Ferrying across the Neyyar becomes extremely difficult when the water rises dangerously during monsoon, he said.

Uphill task

Besides, there is no proper road from the foothill to various settlements in Thodumala. Walking on the narrow path is an uphill task, he added. “Patients and pregnant women are carried on chairs till the riverside. They have to be ferried to the other side to be transported to hospitals. Last year, a boat carrying a pregnant woman was swept away. After hours of struggle, we managed to steer the boat back on course,” he said.

The absence of a bridge and proper road connectivity has had a telling impact on the lives of the people.

“Children are often reluctant to walk eight km to their schools. Parents are worried about the safety of their wards. Some students have even stopped going to school, said Prabhu. “We are not asking for food, shelter, or clothing. What we need is a bridge and a road on which we can at least ride a cycle or two-wheeler,” he added.

J. Shine Kumar, member of the Vellarada division of the district panchayat, said the LDF government took a decision to construct an overbridge at Charukkupara Changadakadavu but it did not take off due to lack of consensus.

The government should try to evolve a consensus among political parties and the people to bring about a solution before a tragedy occurs, he added.