In Kerala, the sea is washing away hopes, homes and all memories

The remains of a house on the verge of collapse along the Kerala coast. Photos: KR Sunil

It was while documenting the old Ponnani port (in Malappuram district of Kerala) that artist-photographer KR Sunil met Hakina and her mother at their hut standing perilously close to the sea. As they talked, waves hit the ruined hut one after the other in quick succession.

The photograph of Hakina pencilling her eyebrows standing near an old bicycle in front of her hut was displayed at an exhibition held in Kochi in 2016. Seeing the pathetic condition of the hut, a viewer got it renovated, and Hakina was happy. But the happiness, much like a sand castle, didn’t last. A year later, when Sunil revisited the spot, he couldn’t see Hakina there. The sea had taken over the house, sending Hakina and her mother to a nearby colony, where such homeless fisherfolk live.

The incident disturbed Sunil, and he decided to document such houses on the verge of collapse, along the Kerala coastline from Kasargod to Thiruvananthapuram. When Sunil visited the huts of fishermen situated close to the sea, he came to know that many of their homes are partially destroyed—if not completely washed out, in the sea erosion and have become uninhabitable. This phenomenon had a spillover effect, making many people homeless throughout the coastline of Kerala. The cause of it lies primarily on the drastic change of climate but also secondary factors like unscientific developmental projects and encroachment of seashore for construction activities.

Sea erosion has made Kerala's coastline uninhabitable for people. It has rendered many homeless. 
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