Kerala

Government’s relocation plans fail to move fishers in Malabar coast

A house that was damaged in sea erosion on South Beach in Kozhikode

A house that was damaged in sea erosion on South Beach in Kozhikode | Photo Credit: K. Ragesh

Along the riskiest Kothi coastline is the tile-thatched house of 32-year-old N.V. Jerseena. The woman stands fearless in the congested fishermen colony where mighty waves frequently peep through the seawall. She is one among the 41 families in the coast where they stick to a minimalistic living. Not that they hate a better living, but the pain of losing everything to the furious sea is beyond a wild guess for anyone. 

The children around her neighbourhood are least aware of the risky lives. Twelve-year-old Mohammed Basith and his friends are always busy playing football. But, Ajmal, a class five student, looks a bit serious. “I have seen many fishing boats being washed away during high tide,” says this young boy.        

The highest number of such vulnerable families in northern Kerala coastline is in Kozhikode. There are now 2,709 families living under sea erosion threat, where the district has already lost about 80 metres of its coast. Of the group, only 273 are willing to relocate. 

“Moving to a remote place with the high price of land is impossible for us. It is also tough to travel from such locations to harbours with the fish implements,” says K.V. Basheer, a fisherman from Nainamvalappu, another badly affected coastline. He laments that the offers from the government are hardly attractive for a sudden shift.

The sentiment is almost the same in Malappuram district where there are 1,806 families settled along the riskiest coastline. So far only 157 families have accepted the State government’s aid for relocation. Though 1,143 families are willing, it may take several years to fulfil their dream.

“People are ready to shift if they get a convenient spot closer to the harbours,” points out P.K. Alavi, an elderly fisherman from Tanur in Malappuram. He feels that many are uncomfortable with the relocation plan as they have already learnt to adjust with the challenges.

In Kannur, the sea erosion threat is continuing to be a problem for 1,583 families. Yet, only 118 families have registered to cooperate with the relocation plan. Only 30 houses are now under different stages of construction.

Though the number of affected are comparatively less in Kasaragod, there are 1,230 families in need of help. The hope is that 540 families have already agreed to shift. Many others believe that they may get a better package with the acquisition of their land for coastal highway projects.

Fishermen from Kannur and Kasaragod say many of them are not happy about leaving their existing spacious homes as the value of their current property can never be compared with the offers from the government. They also fear the takeover of their abandoned property by private investors for tourism purposes. 

Fisheries Deputy Director P.P. Ranjini says the department is making all possible efforts to convince the reluctant families about the risk in continuing at the current spot. “They are not supportive of the idea of demolishing the existing houses. If they accept the package, they will have to move out from the existing land,” she points out.


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Printable version | Jun 21, 2022 8:53:34 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/governments-relocation-plans-fail-to-move-fishers-in-malabar-coast/article65453897.ece