Islands of Kochi

The decades-old wait for boats, buses, bridges in this Kochi island

Long way to go: Chariyamthuruth residents have to travel in boats or take the ferry service to reach the nearby island of Pizhala to access civic facilities.

Long way to go: Chariyamthuruth residents have to travel in boats or take the ferry service to reach the nearby island of Pizhala to access civic facilities.   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Chariyamthuruth residents’ demand for a bridge providing connectivity to Pizhala is decades-old

For 63-year-old Rosily, the day begins at the crack of dawn. Rushing through household chores, she leaves home at 6.15 a.m., early enough to walk to the small jetty at Chariyamthuruth, to catch the ferry that will take her to the nearby island of Chennur. From Chennur, she takes the boat to Kothad island, from where she gets a bus to Kacheripady in the city. She changes buses at Kacheripady to reach Thrikkakara, where she has been working as a house help for 26 years. In the evening, her commute back home involves three bus trips — Thrikkakara to Edappally, then Varappuzha and finally Puthussery — and a long walk. For a day’s work, she earns ₹250, spending nearly a fourth of it on her commute.

Ms. Rosily is one of the hundreds of residents of Chariyamthuruth, who hop one too many boats and buses a day, to reach Kochi where they earn their living as construction labourers, shop assistants, and domestic workers.

Their demand for a bridge providing connectivity to Pizhala, where all major civic facilities are located, is decades-old. “The Chariyamthuruth-Pizhala connectivity project, involving Chariyamthuruth-Chennur and Chennur-Pizhala bridges, had received administrative sanction in 2011. Everything including the sketch and the estimate was ready. But eight years later, there is no sign of a bridge,” says Bino Joseph, former ward member.

‘Erratic service’

A ferry service run by the Kadamakkudy panchayat takes people to nearby Pizhala and Chennur. But islanders say the service is erratic. Sometimes, it is called off for days on end. To get to the other side, they then have to call out to willing boatmen fishing in the Periyar to help them.

The decades-old wait for boats, buses, bridges in this Kochi island
 

Crossing the river in smaller wooden boats is dangerous, says E.B. Malathi, the teacher at the lone anganwadi at Chariyamthuruth. Gazing at the seemingly calm water flow, she adds, “Last year, the boat capsized and the boatman died.” Somewhere in the river is the dreaded spot the locals refer to as “manavattichuzhi” (also “manavattikuzhi”), where a boat carrying wedding guests is believed to have capsized years ago, killing the newlyweds.

Flood-hit roads

On the other end of Chariyamthuruth is a road that connects it to Puthussery and the Valiya Kadamakkudy region. But, at the start of this monsoon, the approach road to the Chariyamthuruth-Puthussery bridge was damaged. Last year's flood had taken a toll on the bridge and the restoration work done was only temporary, says Sathosh Padan, a resident. When the river swells, the base of the bridge gets further eroded, he adds. The furious Periyar destroyed a number of houses on the island last August.

Under the leadership of the Velankanni Matha Church, the residents took up on themselves the task of reconstruction and built 16 houses for their fellow islanders. But the roads on the island are in shambles and the floods worsened their condition, says Mr. Padan.

For a living: Anglers at work on the island.

For a living: Anglers at work on the island.   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Ward member Leela Rose says the panchayat is hard-pressed to repair the roads, the widening of which has been hampered by the refusal of some residents to give up land. With not many sources of revenue, the panchayat coffers cannot fund major infrastructure work, she adds. However, the old-timers of Chariyamthuruth remember a time when acres of pokkali fields and prawn farms on the island minted money for its residents. When people started taking up non-traditional jobs, there was a dearth of hands to engage in agriculture. And before they knew it, their fellow islanders were selling off land. Large plots of agricultural land bought by outsiders now lie unused at Chariyamthuruth, with the owners denying islanders the permission to undertake farming activities there, says a resident. The old-timers believe that the decline of farming sent Chariyamthuruth on its slide downhill.

At the water’s edge: A house constructed under the leadership of the Velankanni Matha Church for a flood-hit family.

At the water’s edge: A house constructed under the leadership of the Velankanni Matha Church for a flood-hit family.   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

 

But, for most residents, the daily commute is their biggest problem, especially during the monsoons. The District Collector’s recent call for fast-tracking projects undertaken by the Goshree Islands Development Authority (GIDA), including the Chariyamthuruth-Pizhala road, has come as a silver lining. GIDA Project Director Ramachandran says the project has the approval of the Authority, and the first phase is expected to be taken up soon. There are some concerns though, he adds. As the proposed project passes through wetlands, environmental clearance has to be obtained.

A terminal of the ambitious Water Metro project is also expected to come up at Chariyamthuruth in the first phase. The tide may be turning for Chariyamthuruth, but most islanders are wary of getting their hopes up. “Yes, a bridge will make half my commute easier,” says Ms. Rosily. But, tomorrow is just another day of precarious boat rides and packed bus journeys for her.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 10:29:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/the-wait-for-boats-buses-bridges/article28363657.ece

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