Kerala

Families start abandoning ‘sinking land’

Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala, has always survived floods. After bouncing back from last year’s back-to-back floods, the worst in recent history, the determination of the people of Kuttanad is again on display as floodwaters returned to haunt them this year too.

However, following last year’s deluge, thoughts about the future and fear of another devastation like in 2018, are prompting families, at least in the worst-hit places such as Kainakary, to abandon the ‘sinking land’ and migrate to ‘safer places’.

Sisupalan P., 61, says last year’s ordeal defies description. His family was forced out of their home at Vavakkad in July 2018 after the place was inundated. Then the August deluge destroyed his home.

Prone to flooding

“After spending a few months in a relief camp, we returned and tried to rebuild. But, as the place is prone to more flooding, we dropped the plan and decided to shift from Vavakkad,” he said.

The family has rented a house near Changanassery as they contemplate their future. “Although, there is no place like home, we are not thinking of going back any time soon,” Mr. Sisupalan added.

Houses sit side by side on the banks of the Paalkaranthodu. Among them, a few nondescript structures lay abandoned. “There are no occupants in these houses. They have all migrated out of Kuttanad following last year’s floods,” says, Ajesh, a local resident.

Although there is no exodus right now, residents say more people would be forced to migrate as nothing is done to restore the ecology of Kuttanad and make it flood-free. This year, several houses have been submerged and hundreds of people are still in relief camps. “Climate change combined with lack of strong bunds leave low-lying areas like Kainakary prone to severe flooding every year. With hardly any measures to protect the area, we don’t know how long the place will remain habitable. Those who have no other place to go are forced to live here,” Ajesh added.

Losses to farmers

The decision to look for new pastures has also been prompted by paddy farmers in Kuttanad suffering huge losses due to recurring floods and intricacies of climate change.

While migration becomes a preferred choice for some, there is also a surge in the number of houses built on stilts as high as 10 feet, a trend started only a few years ago, as the majority of the people staying put in the region try to adapt to frequent flooding.


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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 1:10:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/families-start-abandoning-sinking-land/article29121468.ece

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