In Poonthura too, most houses were destroyed and the shells of those houses remain along the coast. “During Ockhi the sea destroyed our homes. At that time only Sivakumar came to our help. He came here when we could not go fishing during Covid-19 lockdown. CPI(M)’s Anthony Raju appears only during election season. We never see him after that. All we want is a harbour in Poonthura, but fisheries minister Mercykutty Amma says it would never happen,” said Susheela Jeyaras, a resident of Poonthura.
At Shankhumukham, the shore erosion has reached a critical stage where the entire stretch of the beach and the adjacent road were swept away last year. “This worsened after they built the Vizhinjam breakwater. Now, they are building a wall along the coast. How will we access the shore? No politician ever thinks about our future,” said Mary, who was selling fish on the broken portion of the road.
Breakwaters are barriers constructed in the middle of the sea to control the waves and ensure calm waters. Of the 3.5 km-long breakwater required for the port, construction of around 650 metre structure has been completed.
Vijayan asserted that the government was building the sea wall because they are afraid the sea would encroach the runaway. “All this erosion began after 1970 when they began the fishing harbour construction in Poonthura. Then erosion began on the northern side and accretion started on the southern side. When the erosion began in 1970, more than 500 houses were lost. Then people were living on the Western side. As the sea encroached, they moved to the Eastern side, where they continue to live. Only the older generation knows about this. I grew up there, so I remember,” added Vijayan. He added that the “sea is attacking us, but this is a man-made issue”.
Along the West Coast, the sand and sediment move towards north along the West Coast and south towards Kanyakumari. When there is a construction along the coast, it blocks the movement of the sand. Initially, the erosion was only in Ponthura and to stop it sea walls were constructed.
“The sea wall in Poonthura has been rebuilt seven times. If you dig, you will see piles of stones. They have all crumbled when the sea takes over. The current sea wall in Poonthura is hardly two years old. There is heavy erosion during the south west monsoon months of May-September, so there won’t be any beach in most places along the coast. There is minor erosion during the north east monsoon between December and January, hence the sand movement along the coast is slow, so a thin beach strip is visible,” explained Vijayan.
The MS Swaminathan CRZ report of 2005 had highlighted that coastal erosion was a major concern along Kerala’s coast. “The agency considering hard measures, particularly groynes or breakwaters should be made responsible for protecting the shoreline at least 500 metre on either side of the shoreline from erosion. In case of breakwaters for harbours, the stretch of the shoreline to be considered for protection should be at least one km on either side of the structure,” the report had mentioned.
But courts and governments do not pay heed to any complaints of sand erosion. “We live at the mercy of the sea which can turn ferocious any time. The politicians and governments change, but no one thinks about our future,” bemoaned K Patrik, a fisherman from Valiyathura.