monsoon woes | Mangaluru

Awash and unsafe: Girl’s death brings to fore crumbling infrastructure in Coastal, Malnad Karnataka

Byndoor in-charge Tahsildar Kiran Gowraiah inspecting the wooden footbridge from where Sannidhi fell into the stream below and was washed away in Byndoor taluk, Udupi district, on Monday, August 8, 2022.

Byndoor in-charge Tahsildar Kiran Gowraiah inspecting the wooden footbridge from where Sannidhi fell into the stream below and was washed away in Byndoor taluk, Udupi district, on Monday, August 8, 2022. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The washing away of an eight year-old class II student Sannidhi in Kalthodu village of Udupi district on Monday has yet again brought to fore the highly unsafe conditions the residents of Coastal and Malenadu Karnataka live in, particularly during the monsoon, in remote villages.

Sannidhi, a student of Government Higher Primary School in Chapparike, slipped from the hands of a midday meal worker while crossing a swollen stream on her way back home and was swept away in the strong currents on Monday at Beejamakki. While an older member of her family would generally accompany her to and from the school, she was unfortunately alone that evening, according to Byndoor Tahsildar Kiran Gowraiah.

Sannidhi is not the lone child to be snatched by monsoon fury — last year, a school girl was swept away after falling from a footbridge into a rivulet near Padubidri in Udupi district. Similar cases were reported in the previous years too from these regions, where water bodies remain full to the brim for at least four months a year and connectivity in hinterlands remains severely hampered.

Despite big strides in public infrastructure, hundreds of villages in Uttara Kannada, Shivamogga, Chikkamagaluru, Hassan, Kodagu, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts have remained poorly connected. While thousands of water bodies flowing through these districts bring life to lakhs of people in the State, they become death traps for the local residents, particularly children. It is a norm for parents or other elders in the family to accompany small children to schools to ensure their safe commute, including crossing/passing through water bodies and safety from wild animals.

Footbridges built

With the inability of the government to build at least concrete footbridges, people continue to use makeshift footbridges made of tree logs, bamboo poles or arecanut tree-logs, particularly during the Monsoon.

Karnataka Coastal Development Authority had taken up footbridge construction in coastal districts in a big way four years ago and has so far built about 80 such structures, said Authority Chairperson Mattar Rathnakar Hegde. This year, too, about 30 proposals have been made, of which at least 10 would be immediately built.

He would visit Kalthodu on August 10 and take stock of the situation, Mr. Hegde told The Hindu.

Byndoor MLA B.M. Sukumara Shetty on Monday said that work on a concrete footbridge near Beejamakki, where the girl was swept away, could not be commenced this year following early rains in May.

Makeshift bridges across rivers too

Not just smaller water bodies, people are forced to build makeshift footbridges across rivers too with the classic example being the 300 metre-long footbridge across Netravathi connecting Pavoor-Uliya Kudru (river island) and Adyar on National Highway 75 near Mangaluru. The demand from about 40-odd families for at least a hanging bridge has not been considered by the government.

Therefore, every year, they assemble the footbridge once water level recedes after monsoon and dismantle it before the rains start. During monsoon, people use boats to cross the river.

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2022 4:53:51 am |