Climate Change

Stolen Shorelines: Journalist’s powerful documentary about dangers facing Kerala’s coastal towns

The 30-minute English-language film will be released end of May 2022

By Kaikasi VS
Published: Tuesday 10 May 2022

Suppose you happen to be a resident of Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram, a coastal city. In that case, there are chances that you will all be emotionally attached to Shanghumugham, once known for its pristine beach and the beautiful Sunday evenings, not to mention the ecstatic New Year's Eve celebrations.

It was part of our collective unconscious; whether it be a romantic stroll, a place of rediscovering oneself, a sip of coffee with your loved ones or to have a glance at the statue mermaid on the beach — it was a regular visit to this beach that soothed our souls. 

Sanghumugham and adjacent Kovalam are both etched in our childhood memories as emblems of a time that is lost forever. It is deplorable to see the beach almost disappearing every second, with the dangers induced by the global climate crisis looming large over our planet itself. 

From the melting of ice caps in the polar region to this speck on the other end of the globe, it is the same story: How anthropogenic activities have aggravated the destruction of Earth.

‘Stolen Shorelines’, a powerful and visually stimulating documentary written and directed by KA Shaji, highlights the disappearance of shorelines, especially in and around Thiruvananthapuram city. Shaji is an environmental journalist with two decades of intense engagement with Kerala’s climatic and livelihood issues.

It serves as a reminder of how encroachments on the natural ecosystems can trigger a series of disruptions to an already ecologically fragile piece of land. It establishes how corporate greed and wrong development notions aggravate the climate crisis in Vizhinjam, Kovalam, Shanghumugham, Muthalapozhi and all other beaches in Thiruvananthapuram, some of which, like Kovalam, once remained sought after by global tourists.

The documentary leaves you in a state of shock. It presents bare facts and shocking information using extensively researched data and testimonials from local people. It researches the imminent threats posed to our shorelines even as we dream about the long-term benefits of developmental projects that aim to make Kerala a superpower. 

The documentary presents with clinical precision the hazards posed to the environment and coastal community by large scale infrastructural projects and construction activities, especially in locations close to the vulnerable beaches. Thousands of fishers are becoming homeless and losing their livelihoods every year as the surging sea waters eat away the shorelines.

Kerala has a long coastline covering almost 590 kilometres and is densely populated. According to the creators of this documentary, this vibrant coast will soon be part of history if more and more reckless strategies are undertaken in the name of development, not considering the question of long-time sustainability. Sea erosion induced by dredging and subsequent sand deposition can have detrimental impacts, seriously affecting marine diversity.

The southern state boasts of an international port at Vizhinjam. Still, it should never be at the cost of permanently scarring our shorelines and thereby affecting the lives of thousands of people who depend solely on the resources offered by the sea. 

The documentary showcases people who lost their homes due to various natural disasters supplemented with human factors and are forced to live in relief camps and temporary settlements.

Kerala, a state which is naturally endowed with a perfect climate, an abundance of water bodies and a long coastal line, is now facing the brunt of the fury of nature as it has tampered with the ecological balance, which sends silent reminders in the form of floods, droughts and an exponential increase in the temperature. 

KA Shaji and his team need to be applauded for this documentary, which exposes how corporate greed has usurped our shorelines and how we must always place the concerns of our environment on a higher pedestal than our material developmental activities.

The 30-minute English-language documentary will be released by the end of May 2022. It is set for a nationwide screening to highlight the plight of Thiruvananthapuram’s coastal communities. The climate crisis, aggravated by corporate greed and wrong development priorities, has made their lives miserable. 

The film is Shaji’s first experiment with documentaries and the 30-minutes film has evolved as a well-edited, balanced and objective analysis of what is wrong with Thiruvananthapuram shores.

Syed Shiyaz Mirza and Sooraj Ambalathara have handled the camera, while VPG Kammath has done the editing. Kalyani Vallath gave the narration. Kannan Mammood, Shafeeq Subaida Hakim, Bhavapriya JU, Roshni Rajan, Salini Raghunandan and Kala Sajikumar have also been associated with the project.  

Kaikasi VS is an assistant professor of English at Government University College in Thiruvananthapuram. \

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.