Tears well up in G. Jayanthi’s eyes when she talks of her house on the sea shore in Nettukuppam in Tiruvallur district.
“There was a lot of space in the front, where my husband would store the fishing nets. It was a pleasure to watch the waves from our rooftop,” she said.
A year ago, six houses, including Jayanthi’s, were destroyed in Nettukuppam when the sea advanced 100 metres and washed away the sands on which they were built.
This tragedy could have been averted if the seawall along the shore had been completed, as planned by the Water Resources Department (WRD). Officials said the project had been put on hold in 2004 due to paucity of funds.
“After we lost our house, we stayed at a neighbours’ place for some time. Today, we live in a friend’s house, for which we don’t pay any rent. But how long can we stay here? We are cramped for space. Our house in Nettukuppam stood on our own property,” said Jayanthi.
The houses were constructed by the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) as part of a Centrally-sponsored scheme — the Rajiv Gandhi Rehabilitation Programme for the 2004 tsunami-affected.
The residents who lost their houses last year — I. Gopi (Jayanthi’s husband), K. Ramesh, A. Kumar, D. Thangaraj, D. Raja and R. Desappan — have written to various departments including TNSCB, the district administration and the Chennai Corporation councillor for help, but in vain.
“The councillor asked us to wait for some time. But how long do we wait?” said Ramesh. Recently too, the fishermen’s panchayat of Nettukuppam wrote to the Madhavaram tahsildar.
The letter has been forwarded to the revenue inspector of Madhavaram for further action.
Last year, after reports on the damaged houses were published in newspapers, officials from various departments descended upon the village and measured the ‘poromboke’ land owned by the villagers.
Today, Jayanthi’s house stands at an angle and is filled with mounds of sand due to dredging at the nearby estuary.
The sand pile-up is due to construction of seawall, built by the WRD after the houses were damaged last year.
TNSCB officials said their responsibility ended with the construction of the 115 houses under the rehabilitation scheme.
“We insured the houses against earthquakes as it was one of the requirements under the scheme. But what can we do if WRD did not complete construction of the seawall on time?” the official said.
Kumar, who is among those lost their houses, questioned the rationale behind insuring houses against earthquakes but not cyclones or floods, in a coastal area.
The affected residents have written to various govt. departments but in vain