Pattinapakkam in Chennai must be among the most severe cases of sea erosion, going by the accounts of fishermen in that village who say that the sea that used to be 500 m away from their homes is now just 60 m away. “We put up sand bags to prevent sea water from coming into our house but it didn’t work,” says Jaya of Mullikuppam in Pattinakkam. Her 150 sq-ft house is home to her and three children. She has kept some of her belongings out into the street for safekeeping; some others are in her relatives’ houses.
Ilavarasu, another resident, says in the last three years the problem has been acute. “Officials don’t heed our complaints. They ask us if we have patta for the land on which our houses are constructed,” he adds.
Fisheries minister D Jayakumar who visited nearby Srinivasapuram on Thursday offered to relocate the residents at Perumbakkam. He announced this in the Assembly on Friday. But the fishermen ask how they could move to Perumbakkam which has neither sea nor a river through which they could possibly earn their livelihood. “We want to live here. Buildings at the Pazhandiammal temple were demolished recently and the lands are lying vacant. There the government could construct houses and move us fishermen there,” says G Ezhumalai. Pointing to a two-storeyed building nearby, he says, “These were built when Kamaraj was chief minister. At that time, I and my parents lived in our house. Today, the same house is shared by 10 people including my sons and grandchildren and it’s not enough.”
Meanwhile, Jayakumar said in the Assembly that measures will be taken to prevent erosion, and announced Rs 10 lakh for each of the 13 coastal districts in the State for this purpose. He said suggestions will be taken to counter this problem.