Fishing community are now not allowed to build homes on the land owned by them

In Vypeen the basics are missing and fishing livelihoods are at stake
news Kerala Elections 2016 Saturday, April 16, 2016 - 10:58

It was only in 2011 that Vypeen was declared a separate constituency. A group of islets cluster together to constitute the bigger island of Vypeen (Vypeenkara).  While most folks living here depend on fishing for an occupation, there also exists a major chunk of residents who rely on Ernakulam city for their livelihood.

Vypeen is the only assembly constituency in the Ernakulam Lok Sabha constituency represented by the CPI(M). Sitting MLA S. Sarma will be contesting the elections for the party from Vypeen, and he will face off against KR Subash of the UDF.

While MLA Sarma reels out a long list of achievements such as overcoming drinking water shortage, financial aid for fish-cultivation, construction of roads and bridges, development of schools and hospitals in the area, the locals seem to have a different story to tell.

Vypeen hospital

“The problem of drinking water shortage is as acute as ever. We are completely surrounded by salt water. Where are we supposed to go for drinking water? The water tank the authorities set out to build five years ago is yet to be completed,” says Lalu Attipettiparambil who is the vice president of the Njarakkal Panchayat.

Lalu alleges water theft from the drinking water-pipes to the Vypeen area from the mainland: “Even earlier, such thefts were reported, but none bother to take any action.”

28-year-old Sheela who works as a saleswoman at a textile showroom in Ernakulam city talks about transportation hitches from Vypeen to the mainland and back: “Vypeen buses are not allowed to enter the city. So every day we have to board two buses to reach our workplaces. None of the political representatives have ever tried to solve this issue.”

Madhu – a representative of the fishermen community in Vypeen area — adds that no political leader has raised a voice against the proposed IOC and LNG terminals in the area.

Construction work of an LNG terminal and an IOC oil plant have begun in the area, following which fishing will soon be banned for safety reasons.

“We are totally against the new plants which will soon become operational.  Once they ban fishing here, what will we do? We make use of ‘vanjis’ (catamarans) and so cannot venture out to the high seas. We will simply starve to death,” Madhu shudders.

Fishermen association meeting in Vypeen

According to a new rule in 2011, construction of any sort is restricted within 500 metres of coastal areas. This in turn badly affects the fishing community as they are now not allowed to build homes on the land owned by them, as traditionally they have been living close to the sea for generations together.

Another recurrent issue faced by Vypeenites is flooding. “Even a drizzle can now flood the island. During high tide, almost half of the island is usually under water. No sincere attempts on the part of the authorities were made to come up with a permanent solution to this decades-old problem,” rues Njarakkal Panchayat President Shilda Rebario.

“We have just one government hospital and that too in a deplorable condition. No doctors…no facilities. Since the majority of the people living here belong to the fishermen community and scheduled categories, we also tend to be the most neglected lot by the authorities. Even the basic civic necessities due to us remain unattended,” she adds.

Water tank construction site

As Lalu puts it: “Why is it that only such developmental projects which are sure to trigger off huge environmental hazards come up on this small island? We are the ones who will have to bear its aftermath. And what makes it worse is that none of this so-called progress actually benefits on ground.”





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