The deep, murky brown sea violently crashes on the seemingly diminutive sea wall, splashing froth on men working nearby. The men, unperturbed, sift through strewn tiles, red bricks and broken panes – pieces of what used to constitute a home – selecting material to pile up against the adjacent house.
The foundations of many houses in Mogaveerpatna near Ullal are exposed, and bricks have been washed away in a few houses, leaving them tottering on the edge.
The tide gets higher, the sea more violent. The horizon is shrouded by mist and distant rain, and the residents hurry their preparations for the night’s tide. “Each night, the waves take away some more sand from under the houses, and piling these stones and bricks will provide temporary stability for the night. In the 33 years that I’ve stayed here, this is the first time my house has been in serious danger,” said Lalita Bangera, a resident.
Putting up plastic tarpaulins to reduce water seepage when high tides wrap his house, Vijay Putran complained of official apathy. “No one from the administration has visited us. We don’t want compensation, we just want the sea wall to be higher so that our houses do not get washed away,” he said.
The sea has carved out a deep gash on Ullal beach, a popular tourist spot. Mohan Kotian’s petty shop has been washed away, while the waves lap up close to Umanath Suvarna’s shop-cum-home. At least 20 casuarina and coconut trees have been uprooted. Residents point out that the site for the Ullal Beach festival held in November now lies around 30 metres into the sea.
A few kilometres south of Ullal beach are the congested areas of Qiliyar Nagar, Subash Nagar and Mukacherry. People estimate that 10 out of 70 houses that line the sea wall in this stretch have collapsed. With two rooms at the back having caved in, Mohammad Hamid’s family of 12 were salvaging all they could and shifting them to the kitchen. “Most of us will have to sleep here tonight. We have no place to go,” he said.
“When a wave hits the house, we get frightened. The sound and the wind are scary,” said Rafiq, a standard XI student, whose house abuts the violent sea.
After losing 12 coconut trees from his backyard since Tuesday morning, Mohan Bovis and his family of four are set to vacate their house in Someshwar Uchil. At least six houses here have collapsed, while the sand is punctured by roots of trees that have washed away. “At least 100 trees have been washed away from here. It isn’t safe to stay here during the monsoons,” he said.
Deputy Commissioner N. Prakash said, “The district administration has released Rs. 1.07 crore out of the sanctioned Rs. 1.45 crore for temporary relief for all places affected by sea erosion. This will be used to increase the wall, or place stones in area. As the logistics is complicated, the process will take a few days. The permanent solution is the Rs. 920 crore sea wall, which is an eight-year project.”