Kozhikode: Rats have it all in Kozhikode. Sea-facing apartments. Promenade to jaywalk and sands to play hide and seek. Once the sun sets, these urban rodents exit from their thousands of cavities in the sea wall and take over the seven-kilometre stretch from Mugadar Beach to Bhatt Road in Kozhikode. They are at home and oblivious to pedestrians stepping aside as they scurry behind one another.
The people of Kozhikode have learned to live with the beach rats. "Rats are seen everywhere on the beach. Here they are safe and getting enough food," said M Siddique from Olavanna. He occasionally comes with his family to the beach road to walk on the promenade. "But they are not harming anybody," he said.
But health and city officials know the dangers of an infestation. There are thousands of rats in the stretch. Apart from health risks, they destroy city infrastructure such as pavement and cables because of their excavation and steal the peace of the beach-goers.
It is the food waste from the eateries and vendors that sustain the rats, said Nikhil Das, secretary to the Kozhikode District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC).
DTPC recently hired nine more cleaning staff to keep the stretch clean. The city corporation has also started clearing the waste every night. "We have been notified of the issue by the public. So last week we made arrangements to collect waste every night," said the city corporation's Health Supervisor and Health Officer in charge K C Rajeevan.
Every night a unit from the health section collects waste from the beach road.
Das said the DTPC and the city corporation thought of using rat poison to eradicate them. "But we decided against it because it will pose a threat to other creatures such as birds and dogs," he said.
For any action, he said, the DTPC would need the support of the corporation and the no objection certificate from the Port Authority.
But ecologists said rats multiply quickly and their population will bounce back as soon as the eradication measure is stopped.