How long will the historic Valiyathura pier survive and stand atop to tell the tale of bygone days? This is the concern of the people in Valiyathura who have been witnessing the erosion of the structure for the last three to four decades.
The pier has once again gained attention after sand eroded from the sides of the pier due to last month’s erosion that had destroyed a few houses and also other buildings on the shore.
The pier has always been connected with the lives of fishermen in Valiyathura. Whenever sea erosion happens, they are much distressed and fear of losing the pier that is part of their lives.
Expressing much concern over the sad state of the pier, Bosco, 57, told kadapuram.com that the pier was a part of them (all fishermen). “In older times, it was here that everyone was taught fishing and swimming. My first lessons on fishing and swimming started here at this pier at the age of 12,’’ he said.
Bosco said that people used to relax under the pier after a day’s work but now no one knows when the pier is going to sink in the waters. He also remembers the good old days when people used to gather on the pier. “The pier was full of activity. Before Vizhinjam was developed as a harbour, Valiyathura was a bustling place. It is so sad to see that a part of our history is being eroded and no one is taking serious note of it,” he said and blamed the government and officials for their negligence in strengthening the structure.
Cleetus, who is in the 50s, said that it was a failure on the part of the government in not taking any steps for protecting this historic structure. “The pillars down below in the sea are in a very bad shape. Whenever we point out a crack or erosion in the pillar or the pier, the authorities just do some maintenance work. They just paste some cement here and there. We all know that this maintenance is not going to give any result but this has been happening for a long time,” he said.
He also said that the pier was so helpful to them at times of rough sea. “During the time of rough sea and strong waves, we used to launch our catamarans from the top of the pier. And the pier was also used to come back to the shore at times of such rough waves,” he said. He also mentioned that the closing of the pier had adversely affected the lives of older fishermen who used to catch fish from the top of the pier. “There were times when we used to get fish worth Rs 500 to Rs 1000 through angling from the pier,” he said.
Expressing the same sentiments, Sanal, who is in the 30s, said that sand below the pier was being eroded at a fast pace and no one is giving much importance to it. “After Tsunami and Ockhi, the beach has witnessed large scale erosion. Moreover, unscientific way of constructing breakwaters at some places has also led to the new phenomenon,” he said.
He said that the present situation would not have happened if the authorities had taken effective steps long back when the first signs of erosion were noticed. “We have intimated the authorities several times about the bad state of the pier. But the authorities are least bothered,” he said.
Sanal says that this historical Valiyathura pier should have to be preserved not only for its historical importance but also for the young ones who are starting to venture into the sea.
Strong waves in the last three decades had been eroding the structure and a few of the 127 pillars of the pier is said to have been destroyed. Moreover, the ramp to the pier has been destroyed which has made it difficult to access the structure. A diving expedition way back in 2017 had confirmed that the several pillars of the Valiyathura pier have detached from the main structure. It was found that the steel of the pillars are exposed and the concrete was being eroded.
Valiyathura pier was opened in the 1950s and was declared a dead port by 1980s. This pier was constructed after an older pier that was constructed in 1825 got destroyed in 1947. The older one was destroyed after a steamer rammed on it. The new pier was constructed after the people in the area had raised concern and as it affected their livelihood.
Valiyathura itself has historical significance as it was the only port in South Kerala during the times of erstwhile Travancore Kingdom.