The island village Pavoor Uliya in Mangalore Taluk cries for connectivity to the mainland. All appeals, as usual, have fallen on deaf ears and the residents have taken to social media to crowdfund a bridge that will bridge the gap, literally! Harsha Raj Gatty has more on this unique project
With no help coming from the government for the last 70 years, this island-village of people now looks up to crowdsourcing funds to build an all weather-bridge. In the absence of basic connectivity to the mainland Mangaluru city, the residents of Pavoor Uliya have already witnessed a spate of avoidable deaths in the last few years
“Any help is ok for us, we want to simply build a permanent motorable bridge; the cost is approximately Rs. 25 lakhs; However, since the government is not interested in the project, we are ready to ask for help from whomever possible”, says Louis, a local resident in a desperate tone.
For over a decade now, Flavy D'Souza says she is an expert in navigating the punt (small boat) through the 10-15 feet of water that takes her to the island-village. "Not just for myself, I have taken the boat with as many as six-passengers at times while ferrying towards the mainland (Mangalore city) to get supplies or to go to work," she says. In the absence of a bridge for over seven decades, necessity has forced nearly 80 percent of the residents; young, old, women and men of this village to take up 'poling' irrespective of their liking.
Flavy, who had lost her husband in 2000, time and again grieves recounting the memories of the incident."He would have survived the ordeal, only if we could have taken him to the hospital on time after he suffered a stroke. About 45 minutes after he first complained of the massive chest pain, we were still struggling to arrange a boat to get to the other side of the island. A lot of precious time was wasted on that day, even as the agony increased with the passing time," she says. By the time, Flavy and the villagers reached the nearest Fr. Muller hospital, her husband was declared 'dead-on-arrival' by the doctors.
Another resident, Laveena D’Souza narrates her ordeal of how she was forced to deliver a baby on the island itself, without any medical assistance. "I was helpless, even though the women came to my assistance without professional help, safe delivery was doubtful and the child could not be saved," she says breaking down in tears.
Located off the coast of Mangalore city, Pavoor Uliya, (‘Uliya’ means which means ‘leftover’ or remaining land) lies in the midst of the Nethravathi River. To connect to the mainland (Mangaluru city), the villagers have to wade through 600-meters of water. The tiny island that has 51 families resident there for the past three-four generation has however no basic amenities such as school, medical facility, street lights, shops, or even a motorable road. "The entire village has one well, that too the water is salty, forget emergency services we don’t even have drinkable water that we can directly consume,” says Violet Monterio. Barring one Hindu family, the rest of the 50 families are Catholics, and yet the village has never seen a communal incident.
At the onset of polls, the island, a part of the Mangalore constituency has been repeatedly visited by the politicians asking for votes, but after polls, the leaders have never fulfilled their promises, the residents’ grieve. "If I recollect since 1991, we have been pleading with the local leaders for fulfilling their promises, prior to every poll they visit the island, give us absolute assurances and believable commitments. But then we don’t know what happens; both the leaders and the commitments never materialize" says Gilbert D’Souza. However, it does not stop the local officials from promptly turning up at the residents’ door to collect taxes and electricity bills. "That they will be there to collect at the exact date and time,” he ridicules.
The presence of government is only felt if one comes across a motorized boat that is docked at the entry point of this village. "The boat was granted to this village after our repeated pleas to the local government officials that non-motorised punts drift away due to the strong currents in the rainy season. But even when it comes to the expense, maintenance and payment to the driver, we have to bear it from our own pockets," Michael, who looks after the boat's maintenance said.
Never in the distant past has a vehicle landed ashore in this village. Most of us have only two-wheeler, which we have to park on the other side of the river. There is no security whatsoever, we have all left it on God," Michael adds.
Gilbert says that about over 50-years ago the distance of the two shores was barely 50 feet; however due to the rising water level over the years, along with rampant illegal sand mining in the area, the divide between the two regions had grown wider. "Though there is a ban on sand mining in the region, at night we see several trucks and JCB's lined up on the other side of the river, lifting loads of sand. When we question them regarding the permit for sand-mining, they threaten us. We have reported the matter to the police and DC office several times, however just before the official's raid, the laborers suddenly wind up their work and flee, it’s quite evident that someone within the department is tipping them on the official visits," a resident under the condition of anonymity says. The pollution caused due to sand-mining has also driven away from the fish in the nearby river beds, which was earlier also one of the important sources of occupation for the locals.
There is nothing much to do in the spread of over 250 acres of land. Most of the residents are employed as Beedi-rollers or daily commute across the river to work as daily wagers, and a few of them are working abroad. Former Chief Executive Officer of Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat, M R Ravi had last year decided to adopt the ailing village and assured its eligible residents to be employed under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGA), however despite the assurance not much progress has been seen till date," the residents claim.
Working as a supervisor in a private firm in Mangalore city, 23-year old Glen, is among the residents who each year during the non-monsoon season along with other youngsters raise a temporary bridge. "Every year, we look into the construction of the bridge using wooden materials, it is non-motorable and only for pedestrians. But when the rainy season approaches we have to dismantle it, as it is washed away due to the depth and the high flowing water stream. Moreover, every year to put together the material it reaches an estimated Rs.50,000,” he adds.
He recollects that earlier the village had a government school, but four-years after it started functioning, the last teacher stopped visiting due to the rainy season, the school has been shut. "There are about 501 children from this village who venture to the other side to study, it’s very risky. During heavy rains even the motorized boat is useless, the children frequently miss school, the water level reaches close to steps of the island's church" Glen says.
Echoing the local concern, Glen says that the villagers want a stable bridge for their regular commute once and for all," he says.
On being asked, why the locals are unwilling to cross over to the city-side of Mangalore. Gilbert says that most of the residents are emotionally attached to their native place. "Our families have put-in their entire savings to build these houses here, like anyone else it not possible for us to wrap-up things and just leave. With our basic education, we cannot sustain either socially or financially among the city folks. At least here we have a roof on top of our head, on the other side who will look after us," he adds.
Based on consultation with professionals, the villagers have now ventured out for the construction of an all-season bridge. "Approximately, Rs 25 lakhs we have been told is the requirement. We are already investing our hard earned money, but it’s insufficient. Since the government is looking the other way, we are hopeful that the patrons or those familiar with our struggles will be able to give these villagers some financial resource," Parish priest Fr Gerald Lobo of the island's Infant Jesus Chapel says. "Of course, it will be a temporary bridge, but it would be of great help for the residents for the daily commute and enable them to access to the larger society and better their own condition," he says.
The locals have already brought some construction materials such as iron bars and construction materials with the available resource, they have also received some technical expertise by construction professionals who are aiding them free of cost. "The message is already out in the public domain, people can contact us and we may receive the timely help soon," says Fr Gerald optimistically.
Name of the Account: Infant Jesus Chapel
Savings A/c Number: 0641101072513
Name of the Bank: Canara Bank
Name of the Branch: Farangipet Branch
IFSC code: CNRB0000641
MICR code: 575
Fr Gerald Lobo, OFM Cap
Mobile – 94487 58084
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