KOCHI: The sit-in protest spearheaded by Chellanam residents demanding government steps, including construction of proper seawall and breakwater system to protect the region from tidal waves, entered the fifth day on Thursday with the protesters in no mood to withdraw the agitation. A meeting convened by district collector Mohammad Safirula along with Kochi MLA K.J. Maxi failed to break the deadlock as the protestors declined to withdraw the agitation, despite the collector promising a comprehensive package to address their concerns. "We will suspend the agitation only after the completion of the damaged wall," said Jervin Joseph, secretary of the Chellanam Janakeeya Samithi, leading the agitation.
According to Jervin, the people in the region are not willing to take the promises made by the officialdom at face value due to their experience in the past. The district administration's proposal to complete a comprehensive package for seawall and breakwater within three monthswas not acceptable to the agitators. The collector said the administration will take immediate steps to restore the portions of the damaged seawall. "Our main demand is a permanent solution for the devastating impact of erosion," Jervin said. Chellanam needs a Dronacharaya-model seawall and breakwater as it exists in Fort Kochi, he added.
Around 500 families in the region have launched the agitation in the wake of cyclone Ockhi leaving a trail of destruction in the region as huge tidal waves pounded the area. Around 14 Catholic priests from Kochi and Alappuzha dioceses have also joined the agitation as the people demanded a permanent solution to the rough sea threat. Political leaders promise Dronancharya- model seawall and breakwater system during the election and forget about it after the polls are over, said Jervin. "They don't care for the poor fisherfolks and other daily wage earners living in Chellanam", he added.
Dist backs IIT-designed breakwater systems
The district administration will submit a project to the state government based on the design of Chennai IIT for the construction of breakwater systems at Chellanam to check sea erosion. An expert team comprising engineers from the Kerala Water Authority will also undertake a two-day visit to the region from Friday to prepare a fresh project for the construction of a seawall.
The decision was taken at an all-party meeting convened by district collector Mohammad Saffirulla and K.J. Maxi, MLA, on Thursday. The meeting also decided to repair the damaged seawall at Bazar, Velankanni, Alungal, Vachakkal, Puthenthode, Companipadi, Marvakkad and Uppathikkad. The proposed comprehensive package will also include the cleaning of the houses, service road construction and canal cleaning.
Several representatives who took part in the discussion demanded the construction of a 17-km seawall on the model of the Dronacharaya seawall in Fort Kochi. According to the collector, compensation for the damaged houses will be made as per government stipulations. District health officer P.N. Sreenivasan said that at present there was no threat of an epidemic or health hazard in the Chellanam region.