Kerala’s hungry monsoon tides

The Kerala coast, the first port of the call of the monsoon in the Indian peninsula, goes through a difficult time during the season as the sea stop respecting any barriers. Here, in Chellanam near Kochi, it makes easy ingress into land, leaving a trail of destruction.

From her sea-ravaged house near the Valiyathura beach in Thiruvananthapuram, Valsa Mathew points to the wide expanse of water in front of her and says, “There used to be a house over there.”

Some 150 km away, in Neerkunnam in central Kerala’s Alappuzha, Sasidharan struggles to find the spot where he had set up a pandal for his daughter’s wedding. The raging sea has washed it away, and all that remains are five coconut trees, and a ground where children play football.

Eriyad in Thrissur is 100 km away but the scenes are eerily similar — houses in various stages of destruction wrought by the sea.

In the very first week of the monsoon in Kerala, the sea devoured an entire row of houses as well as the road in front of Valsa’s house.

Terrified that the waves will rush into her house any moment, she bought two truckloads of boulders and built a barrier. It is in coastal Thiruvananthpuram that the sea has inflicted the most damage — 35 houses have been destroyed and 25 damaged.

The monsoon can be the stuff of nightmares for the fishing community living along the Kerala coastline. Seawalls have been erected along 310 km of the State’s 590 km coastline. The government has been trying to create walls along the rest of the stretch too.

But some experts claim that seawalls have only worsened coastal erosion. Environmentalists want fisherfolk to be shifted elsewhere so that the sea can be allowed to take its own course. To use granite to protect the shores, how many more hills will have to go, they ask.

Images and text by Thulasi Kakkat

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