Kerala family forced to live without electricity for 2 months due to waterlogging

The house in Thiruvananthapuram has been on a lower plane ever since houses were built on raised levels around it and this leads to floods every time it rains.
Kerala family forced to live without electricity for 2 months due to waterlogging
Kerala family forced to live without electricity for 2 months due to waterlogging
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Sixteen-year-old Doyan stands on top of a stone, directing us to his house through a narrow lane near Pettah railway station, Thiruvananthapuram. Through the grills of a door he shows what’s inside the house – water. Muddy, dirty water that’s taken over the whole little house that sits on a lower plane.

Every time it rains, Doyan’s house would be flooded. It has become worse the last two Augusts when all of Kerala suffered from floods. Dixon, Doyan’s dad, shows a line on the wall – about two and a half feet from the ground – where water reaches during the floods. He works as an auto rickshaw driver – the vehicle marked with the names of all three of his sons, parked in a yard nearby. “That’s the route we take to go out – jump the fence and reach the road. The other way, through the front of the house, is inundated, slippery and filled with dirty water that can make you ill,” he says.

Outside the house

Dixon and Helen, his wife, moved to the house in 2006. It was built in 1982, Helen says. “Around the time we moved in, newer houses were built in the neighbourhood on raised levels. This brought our house to a lower plane, which meant, it got clogged with mud water every time it rained,” she says.

The water comes from the Kannamoola canal nearby and it takes a lot of time to drain away – months after the rains stop. It’s been so bad that electricity has been cut for the last two months. “People from the electricity board who came to the house saw how waterlogged the area is and refused to give us power. It’d be too dangerous,” says Helen.

Dixon and Helen

She has ringworm – a skin infection caused by mould-like parasites – on her legs, from walking in the dirty water too much. The children stay away in the neighbour’s or friends’ houses. Doyan has two little brothers – Shovin in class 7 and Ryan, a fourth grader, all three of them going to the Pettah government school. The parents spend the nights at home in a damaged bed. “We have to make sure there are no snakes in the house. If we desert the house, that will happen.”

Even as we stay there, we could see frogs jumping across the water-filled floors. They breed there, say the family. And because there are frogs, snakes crawl into the house. On the way up to the terrace, you can spot snakes in the waterlogged yard behind the house. The terrace is where the family had tried to set up a temporary shelter and sleep for the night. But that too got destroyed in the winds, says Dixon. Even the bathroom outside the house got waterlogged and the family cannot use it.

Help needed

“The only solution is to raise the foundation of the house by at least a few feet. We have been sanctioned an amount of Rs 4 lakh through the PMAY (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, a Central government scheme, to build affordable housing for the poor). But for the first step – raising the foundation – they have just allowed us Rs 40,000 and we’d require Rs 2.8 lakh for the work. I have been talking to people – the church would give us Rs 50,000 and the Trivandrum Social Service Society, an NGO, would offer another 60,000. But we’d still need more,” Dixon says.

He tried to apply for bank loans, but was told that, to be eligible, the path to the house should be at least be 3 metres wide, for car access. The path now is just about wide for a person to walk.

Dixon's auto parked in the yard next door: the route to go out of the house

The auto rickshaw that Dixon rides has a few pending loan instalments to be paid. Dixon, who had been doing odd painting jobs before, got the vehicle only a year ago. “Councillors and other government officials who visit the house take pity on us, but nothing could be done so far. Our ward councillor Sobha Rani has been very helpful in talking to people to help us. However, we are still in a fix.”

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