February 27, 2021
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Global Warming: Kerala’s ‘Sinking Island’, Munroe Thuruthu, Pins Hope On Amphibious Houses

The picturesque island has been witnessing the houses sinking due to rapid ecological changes

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Global Warming: Kerala’s ‘Sinking Island’, Munroe Thuruthu, Pins Hope On Amphibious Houses
Photos Courtesy: Stills From The Documentary, 'Vanishing Island'
Global Warming: Kerala’s ‘Sinking Island’, Munroe Thuruthu, Pins Hope On Amphibious Houses

Kerala’s ‘sinking island’, Munroe Thuruthu, which has been on the receiving end of global warming, is now pinning hope on a pilot project of amphibious houses.

The Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) has come up with a new design for houses to be built in Munroe Thuruthu, where nearly 2000 families are under threat of displacement due to rapid ecological changes in the region.

Located at the confluence of Ashtamudi Lake and the Kallada River, in Kollam district, the eight picturesque islands in Munroe Thuruthu, have been witnessing the houses sinking due to rapid ecological changes.

“After the tsunami in 2004, the tidal flooding here lasts very long as if it does not retrieve. The construction of Kallada dam has also caused the severe ecological problems here. The dam stopped the silt accumulation which basically forms the soil strata of the islands. As a result, the ground has been sinking. Houses are sinking. Septic tanks overflow to the courtyards and sit-out areas. Waterborne diseases are on the rise on an alarming level. Salinity increased fatally affecting the rice and plantain cultivation,” said D. Dhanasumod, the director of Vanishing Island, a documentary film on the plight of Munroe Thuruthu.

“There’s an urgent need for experts to come together to find a solution to make this beautiful region habitable,” said Niranjan Das Sharma, chairman of IIA’s Kollam centre.

The idea of amphibious houses came after former Rajya Sabha MP and CPI(M) Kollam district secretary, K.N. Balagopal, who has raised the island’s issues in Parliament, approached the IIA for a solution. “The CPI(M) will build the prototypes under the party’s housing project,” Balagopal told Outlook, referring to the CPI(M)’s novel scheme announced at the state conference earlier this year to build 2000 houses for the poor.  

CPI(M) politburo member S. Ramachandran Pillai on Friday laid foundation stone for the first amphibious house in Munroe Thuruthu. “The panchayat (ruled by CPM), will soon call a development convention of geologists, economists, and agriculture experts to address various issues faced by Munroe Thuruthu,” Pillai told Outlook.

“We proposed two strategies,” IIA’s Sharma told Outlook. “One is to restore the existing structures and the second, to propose a prototype. The structures to be made demanded some special characteristics apart from the basic need of a house. It had to survive the prolonged tidal flooding, rapid sinking and resistance to saline atmosphere.”

“The existing structure was on the ground for a while and a considerable amount of settlement happened during this time with the existing load which was conventionally made of brick, cement, tiled roof etc,” he said.

Amphibious house: Design 1

“When we use the same foot print to build a lighter super structure the settlement should not further happen. Light super structure is planned with light weight concrete blocks and PUF insulated metal roof. This will weigh about 3 times less than the existing structure. Apart from a basic enclosure, care is also taken to ensure climatic comfort with high pitched roof and perforated GI sheets which will stop mosquitos and allow ventilation,” Sharma explained.

Amphibious house: Design 2

“(The second case will have an) elevated structure using coconut tree trunks, which is locally available in plenty. (It will also have) a floor platform with steel frame protected with epoxy paint, a steel frame/ wooden frame cavity wall using fibre cement boards and perforated steel windows. This will be again raised by about 3 to 4 feet above  ground to deal with rising water,” he said, adding, this design development is still under process.

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