Munroe Thuruthu islanders caught in COVID waves

A view of Munroe Thuruthu in Kollam  

When Ajith Ramesh started his traditional two-room homestay in Munroe Thuruthu, the island had already made it to the global tourism map.

It was fully booked for the season in 2020 when COVID-19 brought everything to a standstill. If the initial shutdown was bad enough, the second one has been devastating for several islanders like him who rely heavily on tourism.

Since the ecologically fragile delta islands thrive on the annual tourist influx, their economy was shattered with the second wave that sent the State back into a lockdown.

“I started this three years back with all my savings and bank loan. We lost the last two seasons due to the pandemic and now they are talking about another wave," says Mr. Ramesh, an expatriate. Many people in the island face the same predicament as tourism seemed like the only worthwhile option in Munroe Thuruthu until the pandemic outbreak.

A view of Munroe Thuruthu in Kollam.

A view of Munroe Thuruthu in Kollam.  

“There are many homestays in the island as foreigners prefer that. Right now future looks very bleak and I have no idea how we will repay the loans,” he adds.

Many of the islanders were looking forward to a better season from renewed activity when the restrictions following the first wave were lifted. “But when business started picking up the second wave came as a cold shower and the blow was heavier,” says Mini Suryakumar, panchayat president.

She adds tourism was the only option for the residents when climate change-related problems left farming more of a gamble. “Over the years, traditional industries such as coir vanished and farming too has become risky due to the tidal flooding. The islanders turned to tourism to survive and now we are facing a serious setback,” says Ms. Suryakumar.

Munroe Thuruthu tourism was all set for a major leap with the announcement of an array of projects when the pandemic hit. The island was expected to offer more jobs to the residents with the completion of houseboat terminals and landing facilities.

“The pandemic has rendered many of the islanders jobless,” says Joy, a country boat operator. He used to offer canoe rides to tourists and for the last couple of months his income has remained zero. “In February, we were asked to take regular antigen tests and work. But by April there were no tourists and my boat has been lying idle ever since,” he says.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2021 11:06:54 AM |

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