Last week, local groups on social media platforms groups were circulating some images from Thiruvananthapuram. Some people, including children and elderly citizens, were seen carrying huge luggage on their shoulders or trolleys, walking through a broken road, with strong waves of the sea on one side, and a huge compound wall on the other side. These were passengers and their families who were exiting or going to the Trivandrum International Airport.
Nearly five months ago, the police closed the Shangumugham-Airport Road in Thiruvananthapuram. Although a 500 metres stretch was closed, it was the easiest route to reach the domestic terminal of the airport from most parts of the capital city. The road, which runs through the Shangumugham beach, underwent gradual erosion due to the rough sea, prompting the officials to close it. The Public Works Department (PWD) is yet to carry out the restoration work, drawing criticisms from the public over the laxity of the authorities.
As a result, not just passengers to the airport, but residents in the area, too, have been forced to either walk through the road or spend money on other means of transportation to access the road via other routes. Since there is a separate route to access the international terminal, the road closure does not affect international passengers.
For years, the popular Shangumugham Beach in Thiruvananthapuram has been facing severe coastal erosion that a major part of the beach has nealy disappeared. In fact, the beach has been kept out of bounds for the public. The benches and walkways were the first attractions of the beach that the sea took away in high tides. Gradually, the waves started attacking the road lining the beach, with almost half of it broken in a year, making it dangerous for vehicles. The police closed the road, allowing only two-wheelers or passengers willing to walk.
There are other roads to reach the domestic terminal — through Valiyathura or Bheemapalli. However, these are longer routes for many residents.
Soubagya, who works in Bengaluru, lives near Kochuveli. “For me, the Airport is just 3 kilometres away. However, if we have to another route, we will have to travel at least 8 kilometres. For passengers who are late or in a hurry cannot take longer routes," she says.
The volume of vehicles through narrow roads of Beemapalli and Valiyathura have increased since the roads are closed, creating a traffic block and causing further delays to passengers who are in a hurry.
As a result, people come in vehicles until the point where the road is closed, walk till the airport, which is 500 meters away, or get another vehicle when the road opens about 300 meters away.
Jesudas, an auto driver from Shangumugham, says he started helping passengers with their luggage. “I carry their luggage, and they pay me. For one luggage, we usually charge Rs 100," he says, adding that air passengers usually take autorickshaws from where the road is open and we would drop at the airport.
Alphonsa, a fisherman who used to sell fish in the locality, says, “My fish stall was destroyed due to the coastal erosion. I sit on the road to sell fish now. However, no vehicles ply through the road now. Many of our houses were also destroyed. People are more worried now as they can't reach the airport in a short time," she said.
Speaking to TNM, an official at Public Works Department in Thiruvananthapuram says, “The road been destroyed due to the coastal erosion. Even if we reconstruct it, more portions of the road will erode within months. Shangumugham has been prone to severe coastal erosion and tidal attacks for the last few years. Some scientific solution has to be pursued rather than building the road again," the official says.
All Photos by Sreekesh Raveendran Nair