Fisherman dies after boat overturns near Muthalapozhi off Kerala coast; Residents hold protest march towards assembly

Officially declared as completed in 2020, the Muthalapozhi fishing harbour is now synonymous with recurring deaths and official apathy.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jun 20, 2024 | 1:26 PM Updated Jun 20, 2024 | 1:26 PM

Muthalapozhi

A middle-aged fisherman died when his boat overturned near Muthalapozhi in Thiruvananthapuram, in the wee hours of Thursday, 2o June, when he was returning to shore after fishing, police said.

The victim was Victor Thomas, a resident of the coastal Anchuthengu area in Thiruvananthapuram, police said.

There were three others on the boat who survived the accident, it said.

They also cited a second accident, in which no lives were lost, that occurred at Muthalapozhi during the day and said that despite the state government being informed again and again that the area was a death trap, nothing was being done.

“The boat overturned near Muthalapozhi when the fishermen were returning to shore with their catch,” an officer of Anchuthengu police station said.

Also Read: Blood-thirsty Muthalapozhi in Kerala gobbles up lives as fishermen keep sailing into the ‘mouth of death’

Protests against government

Frequent accidents and resultant deaths at Muthalapozhi in Thiruvananthapuram, where the sea meets a river and a lake, prompted the residents of the coastal area on Thursday to hold a protest march towards the state assembly carrying a coffin.

Muthalapozhi at Perumathura is a place where the Vamanapuram river and Kadinamkulam lake meet the Arabian Sea and has become a death trap for fishermen while going to sea and also when returning to shore.

The protestors, led by the Kerala Latin Catholic Association (KLCA), marched from Palayam in Thiruvananthapuram to the Assembly, but the police set up barricades to prevent them from getting close to the state legislature. They then placed the symbolic coffin before the barricades and shouted slogans against the government.

There have been several incidents of fishermen dying due to their boats overturning near Muthalapozhi.

On 28 May, a fisherman died after his boat capsized mid-sea due to high tidal waves at Muthalapozhi.

In July last year, four fishermen died in Thiruvananthapuram, leading to a political row erupting in the state over the incident with both the ruling LDF and the opposition UDF in Kerala blaming each other for creating tensions in the coastal area.

Also Read: Kerala Legislative Assembly expresses condolences to families of Kuwait building fire victims

Unkept promises

The protestors claimed that last year, after the death of four fishermen, the state government had promised to fulfil several demands of fishermen and residents of the coastal area.

“More than a year has gone by, but the government has not fulfilled even one of the promises,” they alleged.

Last year, the state government said that to prevent accidents, the Adani Group— with which the government has a contract to dredge the fishing harbour area— would be asked to increase the depth of the channel and basin, as provided under the agreement, by removing rocks and sand deposited there.

It had also said that a permanent mechanism will be put in place to prevent sand deposition in the approach channel to the harbour.

The other promises made by the government were building homes for those who do not have houses, creating a source of livelihood for them and exploring how to waive off the loans the families had taken and are yet to be paid off.

‘The mouth of death’

Officially declared as completed in 2020, the Muthalapozhi fishing harbour is now synonymous with recurring deaths and official apathy.

The people there call the estuary the “mouth of death”. Whenever the sea turns rough in the heavy monsoons, the waves become monstrous, rise to dangerous heights, and crash instantly.

That process pulls the boats to the rocky edges of the backwaters.

Once known for its large-scale coir manufacturing units, Muthalapozhi has witnessed a decline in the cottage industry.

Then the whole region found fishing as the sole means of sustenance.

The fish workers here confess that the demand to construct an all-weather fishing harbour facilitating the profession even in the rainy season emanated from their ranks. The area witnessed several agitations in this regard.

The technical know-how for the project was given by the Ocean Engineering Department of IIT Chennai, and Kerala’s Harbour Engineering Department took responsibility for the construction.

By 2005, several modifications were incorporated into the original project, and people now allege that these finally turned fatal for the fishing community.

(With PTI inputs)

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