For someone planning to hop to multiple destinations around the world in 24 hours, witnessing the sunset at Kakkathuruthu, in Alappuzha district, may appear to be an unusual way to end this crazy adventure. But, Nat Geo doesn’t think so. In fact, it has included this island of crows in its ‘Around the World in 24 Hours’ list, which is a photographic tour of travel-worthy spots in the world. The secluded nature of the island can be attributed as the reason for this recognition.
Kakkathuruthu, a four-kilometre-long island under the Ezhupunna Gram Panchayat, is home to only around 1,000 people and very few establishments. Moreover, its connectivity to the mainland is only through small boats that the natives own and the ferry facility that the Gram Panchayat provides. This could be the main reason why the island has not seen any exponential growth in terms of tourism. A few people who have discovered the beauty of the island have managed to retain its serenity and are of the opinion that sometimes it is good to remain isolated in order to maintain the original charm.
However, it is also important that people are not denied basic services. This is a subject that needs to be looked into with utmost seriousness in places like these. Development cannot be halted and at the same time the serenity of the place cannot be compromised on.
People living in Kakkathuruthu do not lead an easy life. They do not have access to basic facilities like a proper school or a dispensary. As the first step towards developing the island, it was proposed that a bridge be constructed in order to establish connectivity between the mainland and the island. This proposal, however, was stalled due to an argument regarding land acquisition.
Commenting on the issue, Anil Kumar, Secretary, Ezhupunna Gram Panchayat, says, “It is true that a bridge is a necessity, but the island is just 50 metres away from the mainland and there are boat facilities available as well. People have to face an inconvenience only when there is an emergency situation. Also, there are other islands in the neighbouring areas as well that are around 1 km away and have no connectivity.”
He added that as of now the situation is under control as people have access to the city whenever required. He also said that the proposal for building the bridge has been sanctioned.
Constructing a bridge could solve many problems, but at the same time it could also hamper the untouched nature of the island. If unchecked, mindless development could result in pollution and crowding and turn it into a destination like Kumarakom.
Maneesha Panicker, founder of Kayal Island Resort at Kakkathuruthu, is of the opinion that development is definitely required in terms of better transport facility, health centres and schools. But she feels building a bridge is not the only solution to this.
“If development is what the whole matter is about, then it can even be achieved without building a bridge, mainly because the island is just 50 metres away from the mainland. Establishing a proper ferry service with enhanced facilities, building a primary school and a primary health centre are the things that should be done with immediate effect, rather than constructing a bridge,” she added.
If infrastructure development is what the government is aiming at, then setting up facilities that will fulfill the basic requirements of the people living there is what is important. At present, the island only has an Anganwadi and not even a primary school. There is also no primary health centre here.
Maneesha says that people at the island indulge in organic farming and it would be great if the government formulates steps that will help them sell the fresh vegetables in the market. She feels this will in turn help them earn more and increase their standard of living.
“If dawn is awakening and daytime illumination, then twilight is transcendence, a final burst of vitality before darkness falls,” is how Nat Geo describes this tranquil piece of land. But if Kakkathuruthu needs to achieve its full potential, the authorities should seriously consider making strides towards sustainable development that will help its inhabitants as well.
Main photograph by Bipin V. (bipinv), CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.