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Kochi: ‘Island with Self-Owned Boats’ Struggles Without Healthcare

Thanthonni Thuruthu is inhabited by 275 people and has no healthcare facility or educational institution.

Updated
My Report
4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Thanthonni Thuruthu residents are in deep waters because of reckless construction on the other side of Vembanad lake.</p></div>
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Surrounded by water and filth sits a dilapidated, moss-stained house in Thanthonni Thuruthu, an island in the backwaters of Kochi.

“The flooding has become routine. I no longer mop up the house. I will have to do it again the very next day,” said Padma Rajappan (80), the resident of the house.

Across the lake surrounding the Thuruthu island, is a contrasting sight: development is apace with the construction of humongous apartments by private players, a four-lane road, and a leisure walkway.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Padma Rajappan outside her house where the lake water floods everyday.</p></div>

Padma Rajappan outside her house where the lake water floods everyday.

Photo Credit: Adarsh B Pradeep & Aiswarya Raj

“These have largely been done on reclaimed lands that displaced a huge volume of water, which now floods the island,” said Jinu Varghese, project director, Goshree Island Development Authority (GIDA), one of the two government agencies for the development of Kochi.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>A cluster of multi storey buildings have come up across the lake</p></div>

A cluster of multi storey buildings have come up across the lake

Photo Credit: Adarsh B Pradeep & Aiswarya Raj

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Thanthonni Thuruthu (translated: island with self-owned boats), is inhabited by 275 people and has no healthcare facility or educational institution, except for an anganwadi that was recently closed, citing low turnout of children.
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Closed Anganwadi of&nbsp;Thanthonni Thuruthu</p></div>

Closed Anganwadi of Thanthonni Thuruthu

Photo Credit: Adarsh B Pradeep & Aiswarya Raj

Thuruthu can only be visited using vanjis (small boats) owned by the islanders or through the sole ferry service operated by the government. Jayan TS, a 48-year-old fisherman and resident of Thuruthu, gesturing at his Vanji docked in front of their house, says,

“For procuring essentials like free rations and cooking fuel, we have to go to the mainland in our Vanjis or the government ferry and stock them up for a month.”
Jayan T S, Resident

During medical emergencies, such as pregnancy, the islanders have to wade through the water even at night.

Thankamma Subramanyan, a 70-year-old resident of the island, whose sister suffered a stroke recently, talked about the difficulties of ferrying the latter to a hospital.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Jayan TS and Thankamma Subramanyan, residents of&nbsp;Thanthonni Thuruthu</p></div>

Jayan TS and Thankamma Subramanyan, residents of Thanthonni Thuruthu

Photo Credit: Adarsh B Pradeep & Aiswarya Raj

“We had to ferry her on our boat at night to a hospital 5 km away.Carrying her to the boat, then rowing across to the mainland and waiting for a ride to the hospital was a strenuous task.”
Thankamma Subramanyan, Resident

The islanders call autorickshaw drivers in advance and ask them to wait across the lake.

“All these hardships can only be resolved by fulfilling our long-standing demands for a bridge and a bund.”
Thankamma Subramanyan, resident
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Ferry service to&nbsp;Thuruthu</p></div>

Ferry service to Thuruthu

Photo Credit: Adarsh B Pradeep & Aiswarya Raj

Varghese said that the project for an outer bund to prevent the water ingression during high tides was ready, but the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance was awaited. She said that there had been no proposal for the bridge so far.

She added that it was not feasible to build a 372-metre-long bridge connecting the 200-metre-wide island to the mainland and that many families would be displaced in the process.

Another GIDA official said, “I tried explaining to a few residents the issues of constructing a bridge in the Thuruthu. But they are persistent with their unfeasible demand.”

Talking about the environmental clearance for the bund, Varghese said, “Countless species are a part of the fragile ecosystem of Thuruthu. Infrastructure development could disturb them.”

We also spoke to a prominent environmentalist, who said, “If private individuals could get CRZ and environmental clearance, there should be equal chances for the Thuruthu residents to get a clearance for the bund to prevent the high-tide ingression.”

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The islands adjacent to Thuruthu are well-connected to the mainland and have all basic amenities. One island in the archipelago even hosts the state’s largest convention centre and a tourist destination under the jurisdiction of Kerala Tourism Department. Adding insult and irony to injury, the sight that islanders wake up to is that of skyscrapers owned by industrial giants.

Despite such inequitable development, where poverty prevails on one side and affluence on the other, the demands of the islanders fall on deaf ears.

(The authors are journalism graduates. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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