"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient…Patience, Patience, Patience is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea." – Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
In the '70s, as a child, I used to run impatiently into the warm waters of Shanghumukham beach in Kerala capital, Thiruvananthapuram, to celebrate my summer holidays. In 1997, the day after my wedding, my enthusiastic husband wanted to take me out, and I suggested 'the beach' to him.
As he drove me in our Ambassador car, I felt glad that he understood that for me, 'the beach' meant Shankhumugham. Now, close to celebrating the silver jubilee of our family life, unfortunately, neither the Amby nor 'the beach' Shankhumugham exist.
The thirty-five-minute long documentary written and directed by environmental journalist K A Shaji reminds me that society has remained greedy and impatient in its development goals over the last five decades.
The consequent disappearance of the shorelines has thinned out the livelihood options of the fisherfolk living along the entire Thiruvananthapuram coastline. Thus we have reduced their lives to that of climate refugees.
Coastlines Adversely Affected By Corporate Greed
The 80 kilometres long Thiruvananthapuram coastline from Edava to Pozhiyur has been adversely affected by corporate greed, which intensified climate change impacts. The Rs 7,525 crores worth Vizhinjam port project now being jointly executed by the Adani Ports and the central and the state governments are the primary reason for the shoreline losses in Thiruvananthapuram.
The documentary shows that the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the centre and both United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) governments in the state have ignored or sidelined the priority of protecting the traditional livelihood and dwelling of coastal communities south and north of the Vizhinjam project. Moreover, they keep ignoring the ever-increasing ecological impact on the coastal areas.
Many Uprooted From Their Shorelines
Aleena, the lively teenager from Valiyathura, speaks about the plight of her family and the pigeons she keeps from the school in which they share the space with several other families. Her dreams of home washed away in Okhi in 2017.
She and her 40 pigeons had to find refuge at a rehabilitation camp arranged at Government Upper Primary School, Valiyathura. Just like the racing pigeons she rears, she too is homeless. The movie poignantly presents the stories of many women, old and young, similarly uprooted from their shorelines.
Brilliant in the storytelling, the documentary demonstrates that governments, left, right, or centre, do not practice the inclusive development they preach. Who pays the price? The same people whose lives are devastated by natural calamities such as cyclones every year. Why are the coastlines disappearing fast north of the breakwater construction for the port? Why are more families along the coastline losing their homes every monsoon? What have the governments done for them? These questions remain unanswered and hushed up.
Shaji, who has an exceptional journalistic background of extensively chronicling climate justice-related issues of South India, has demonstrated high objectivity and professional brilliance in this work.
Transhipment Terminal Project
The Vizhinjam international transhipment terminal project will make a substantial financial loss when it completes. The Comptroller and Auditor General have calculated losses worth Rs 5,608 crores.
Ironically, Vizhinjam is still touted by the authorities as to the dream port, which can handle more than 80 per cent of the nation's transhipment cargo. It stays silent about the shattered dreams of the coastal communities.
"Let Us Hope 'Stolen Shoreline' Will Be An Eye-Opener"
This story of the victims of development pulls me back to the book,' The old man and the sea'. Santiago, the old man, has always thought of the sea as 'la mar', which is what people call a woman in Spanish when they love her.
Yes, the sea is a woman. True to our habit of heaping our wrongs on our women, we have done the worst to the sea and the brave sea-faring people. Let us hope this short movie will be an eye-opener.
As Kalyani Valyathu presents these questions in her sombre voice, supported by Syed Shiyaz Mirza and Sooraj Ambalathara wielding the camera, the erosion of the coastlines of Veli, Vizhinham, Valitathura, Vettukadu or Kochuthoppu continue unabated. The credit for the excellent edit of the film goes to VPG Kammath. It's a brilliantly chronicled reality tale. So poignant.