Sixty-eight-year-old Ambika breaks down while she describes the plight of living in a waterlogged house. She is just back home after using the toilet at a neighbour’s place. The toilet at her home is unusable as it’s inundated with water. “I eat only once a day and drink glucose the rest of the time to avoid using the toilet as much as possible. I’m on medication for some physical ailments,” she says.
Ambika’s husband died six years ago and the couple have no children. She owns one of the six houses that gets inundated every rainy season in Thiruvananthapuram’s Kazhakkuttam. The state witnessed heavy rains in the past few days owing to the cyclone on the Andhra coast, just a couple of weeks following the southwest monsoon.
Ambika lives alone in the house. “When the water gushed into my house, I got really scared. It also got me mentally down as I have no one to call for help,” she says. Water has now begun receding from her house but the toilet and kitchen are still flooded.
But it’s not the same for Bindu who lives in the same neighbourhood. Her entire house and premises are still waterlogged. She wears boots to get to the gate from her house. Anyone visiting her has to negotiate waist-deep water to reach her house.
“We’ve been living here for long, for about 40 years. We’ve been facing this problem for the last 10 years, it has become worse in the past couple of years,” she says.
Rakhi, another resident of Kazhakkuttam, has been facing the same issue. Anyone visiting her has to negotiate a flooded road and an extension of the road that leads to Bindu’s house.
Unlike Bindu’s family, Rakhi, her husband, two children (4 and 11) and her mother-in-law have shifted to her parents’ place after their house flooded.
These houses are located in Kazhakkuttam’s Palace Nagar in Thiruvananthapuram. Kazhakkuttam is known as the techno city as the IT park – Technopark – is located here. Palace Nagar is just a stone’s throw from the service road attached to the Chakka-Kazhakuttam stretch of the Kazhakkuttam-Kovalam bypass. An elevated highway is being constructed on this bypass.
The residents say that a sewer through which water used to flow earlier was filled up for the construction of the highway, which has aggravated the waterlogging.
“The water has septic tank waste, food waste from the hotels nearby, and even fish. It’s probably water from the nearby Thettiyar (a stream), or else where is the water coming from? It has now become tougher for us during the pandemic as the mental stress of living in an inundated home is huge now. None of us other than my husband steps out now even to the nearby junction which is 5 minutes away, negotiating the water is beyond us,” Bindu says.
The family buy water cans as the well water is not usable. “It’s not affordable for us with the limited family income,” she says.
Rakhi’s family moved to her parents’ place when the well water stored in their tank got over. “Till then we somehow managed to live on the first floor of the house,” she says.
The toilets at the houses are not usable too, adding to their misery. The flood water also carries with it venomous snakes.
“Even when we disinfect and use the toilets after the water recedes, it still causes itching,” says Ambika.
“There are snails too in the flooded water, since I’m not afraid of snakes I managed when snakes entered the house,” she adds.
The waterlogging is in a 500-meter radius in which the houses, a restaurant and a 14-storey under construction apartment are located.
Bindu’s house is located on the border of both the Kazhakkuttam and Attipra panchayat. “We lodged a complaint with both, but no one seems to be able to address our problems,” she says.
Her son was ill recently. “See I have to wear boots to come out of the house, so you can imagine how it’s for us when someone at home falls sick,” she says.
Rakhi had contracted leptospirosis in the previous flood.
“We can’t afford living in a rented house now, so we shifted to my home. I’ve even filed a complaint with the district administration. The solution is to rebuild the sewer, but what we need immediately is for the water to be pumped out,” she says.
The premises of her house is flooded too and the well is submerged.
“It takes a huge toll on our mental health too, the shifting and the house cleaning every time, dealing with snakes and the waste that the water carries,” she says.