It’s a long road to recovery for Kodagu

Angarika Gogoi | Sep 13, 2018 | 5 min read


After devastating floods and landslides ravaged the Kodagu district in Karnataka last month, the road to recovery has been all the more tougher in the hilly terrain. Villagers continue to live in relief camps while different stakeholders work towards rebuilding their lives and livelihoods.

The district administration has identified house sites in 10 villages where they would have to rehabilitate about 800 villagers. More than 13 villages including Kalur, Hammiyala, Mutlu, Monnangeri, Iggodlu, Jodupala, Made and Thantipala were completely washed away in landslides.

M K Jagadish, additional Deputy Commissioner (rehabilitation), says initial estimates suggest the district’s loss due to floods is at around Rs 8,000 crore. He also added that 18 people had lost their lives owing to landslides in August before the rescue operation team could reach them. These people were from Makkandur, Thanthipala, Mokkodlu, Kalur and Monnangeri villages in the Kodagu district.

Jagadish said that houses will be constructed in Karnangeri, Kalakeri Nidugane, Galibeedu and Made villages.

Shantharam Kamath, a volunteer from Seva Bharathi working with the relief camps in Suntikoppa, said it is mostly the migrant workers who await clarity on their future in Kodagu and remain with them in these camps, as most of the dwellers who have to be rehabilitated have been shifted to the government-run relief camps in Kushalnagar.

These migrants mostly worked in Kodagu’s coffee plantations and come from Western Karnataka districts, Bihar and Assam, said Kamath, adding that many of them have since then left for their native places as it has become difficult for them to find work.

Jagadish mentioned that on August 19, as many as 6,564 villagers took shelter in 41 relief centers in the district. Since then, the number has reduced to 1,245 villagers living in 12 relief centers as on September 11. The district administration will now provide various certificates issued by the revenue department and the land records to victims free of cost.

Tashma Muthappa, 23, an international-level athlete who has represented the country in throwball, also took shelter at Cherambane relief center on 17 August. Grieving the loss of her medals and certificates from her home that she shared with her parents in Monnangeri, near Madikeri, Tashma said her family walked four kms under heavy rain to reach Cherambane. After two days, they shifted to Madikeri relief center, before moving to a relative’s house.

While talking about the free of cost certificates promised by the administration, Tashma asks, “But who will issue my certificates and medals?”. Their house was the only asset her family owned, she said.

The athlete who works as a computer assistant at Kodagu Institute of Medical Science (KIMS) hopes the government would respond to her request for a permanent job under sports quota. Working as cook at a homestay, her father is struggling to make ends meet, as tourism and related businesses in the district have suffered a severe blow.

M P Appachu Ranjan, MLA from Madikeri, said that nearly 2,200 kms of village roads and 170 kms of highways were damaged in the district after floods and landslides. The legislator also lost 10 acres of his coffee estate in Hadageri.

Road connectivity between Somwarpet and the district headquarters in Madikeri is yet to be established as huge landslides in Hattiholle, Haleri and Udayagiri have posed a hindrance. Work to clear this stretch has been on since last 10 days. Shyjen Peter, the PWD engineer in-charge of the Somwarpet sub-divison and supervising the rebuilding of Somwarpet- Madikeri highway, mentioned that the road had developed a 500-600 feet gorge in Hattihole and Makkandur.

“Four JCBs have been working since a fortnight to make it (road connecting Somwarpet to Madikeri) motorable. We are using sandbags to make the road commutable at least one way,“ said Peter. He anticipated that road repair would be complete within the next 10 days.

Almost 30km stretch of the Madikeri-Mangaluru National Highway between Madikeri to Sampaje was also badly damaged. While the repair work would go on for a few more days, two-wheelers have been allowed on the road since 8 September, confirmed Deputy Commissioner P I Srividya.

The coffee conundrum

Being one of the biggest suppliers of coffee from India, Kodagu laments the loss of coffee estates and plantations. The district produces approximately about 1.2 lakh tonnes of coffee annually, which alone accounts for about 40% of total coffee produced in the country.

Jaggaranda Kaverappa, a native of Iggodlu near Madapura in Somwarpet taluk, said that their coffee estate has been reduced to nothing. Francy, his wife, said that the family also lost 15 bags of coffee and 3 quintals of pepper stored in the house. Along with their house that stood in the middle, the couple lost their 8-acre wide estate. They had vacated their house in time on August 16 after being alerted by a neighbour that their estate sat under the looming danger of a landslide. Francy and Kaverappa, who are now staying with relatives in Chikka Betageri, said they have asked their children studying in different cities not to visit back anytime soon.

Coffee Board officials from outside Kodagu were called in to conduct a survey to assess the loss and they split in 27 teams to visit the affected estates, said Reena Prakash, member of the National Coffee Board. Prakash said the CB officials estimated that nearly 3,000 acres of coffee estates were destroyed and a report in this regard has been sent to the Union government.

Ananth Kumar, deputy director at the Virajpet division of the Coffee board, said that as per early estimates, nearly 30,000 tonnes of the coffee crop has been destroyed, majority of it due to heavy rainfall. Kumar said an NDRF team from Delhi was scheduled to visit the district Wednesday to asses losses and that the Coffee Board officials will submit another report to them.

The district administration lifted on 9 September the ban imposed on entry of tourists on 19 August, giving a first push to economic activity in the district.

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