MetroPlus finds out why the city is looking forward to a facelift that is not skin deep

The city is on the move. Be it in transportation, tourism, industry, healthcare and education, Thiruvananthapuram is experiencing a transition that is changing its face and revolutionising the way we live and think. There is no going back even though some might hanker for the laidback charm of the city of yore.

Roads are wider; flyovers leaping over traffic snarls and twisting roads are part of the landscape; Thampanoor, the heart of the city, is getting a makeover with a smart bus terminal and a new system to prevent water-logging. Technopark, the first such centre in the country, is becoming bigger and better. A monorail is being put on track to usher in changes. In the meantime, the city is looking seaward. Vizhinjam international harbour is the port of good hope that could make a huge difference to the development of the southern regions of the State.

As the city makes the transition from one year to the other, MetroPlus speaks to some of the leading changemakers from the city to find out what is on their wishlist for 2014.

Most of the entrepreneurs, bureaucrats, politicians and the aam aadmi say that the Vizhinjam sea port is the first on their wishlist for the capital city.

Vizhinjam international port

This could really change the fortunes of the district and galvanise the development of the region. It would be a shot in the arm for both industry and tourism, says G. Vijayaraghavan, member Planning Board. “All these fears about the port damaging tourism is not true because a cruise terminal is also being planned. Once cruise ships start arriving, it would boost the tourism sector like nothing else. We are looking at something akin to Singapore. The container transhipment would also multiply employment across all sectors,” he says.

P. Ajay Prasad, socio-development blogger and managing director of a global equity firm, wants the State Government to award the construction tender for Vizhinjam, not later than April. “The work on enabling infrastructure such as the widening of the NH-66 and the doubling of the rail line towards the South should be immediately taken up,” he adds.

Roads

District Collector K.N. Satheesh points out that it is good roads that put a city on the path to development. “The government is giving top priority to ensure that the city and the district have first class roads. The Kerala Road Development Board is trying to bring more roads under its ambit to give them a facelift. The flyover at Mele Pazhavangady, linking Power House and Thakaraparambu roads, is expected to ease traffic congestion to a great extent.”

In addition, the government is trying to coordinate the working of the Kerala Water Authority and the Public Works Department to see that the roads are not dug up every now and then for the laying of pipes, he says. Discussions are on to see if some kind of a time frame can be worked out to ensure that pipe-laying for private residences are carried out during that time of the year only. In the meantime, the government is coming down hard on encroachments of all kinds that are a major hurdle to the smooth movement of traffic. Punitive measures are being worked out to remove and stop encroachments. “Street vendors will be provided a space and time to carry on their business but no permanent structure will be allowed on the roads,” he adds.

Ajay says that the development of the social infrastructure as well as the road network in and around Technopark should be expedited. The monorail also figures high on the wishlist. “Ideally, the construction of the monorail MRTS should commence by June and an Integrated Metropolitan Transport Authority should be established to provide a multi-modal transportation for the city,” he says.

Bus terminal

One structure that is much awaited is a multi-storeyed bus terminal complex that promises to be a first-of-its-kind in the state. Sprawling over 3.5 lakh square feet area, the 12-storey building with centralised AC blocks promises to make commuting a breeze for passengers. “In addition to separate zones for arrival and departure of buses and ample parking space, it will accommodate a commercial zone with shopping malls, food courts and multiplexes,” says an official of the Kerala Transport Development Financial Corporation Ltd (KTDFC), which is constructing the terminal on a BOT basis.

In Ajay’s view, the city is also in pressing need of a centralised solid waste processing plant. Elaborating on his wishlist, he explains: “The city’s sewage network too has to be expanded immediately; the Knowledge City project report has been prepared and it needs to be put into action immediately in order to attract world-class global or Indian anchor institutions; with regards to airport expansion, the development of the integrated Terminal on the city side of the airport has to commence immediately…”

Archana Sampath, president of Make A Difference, Thiruvananthapuram chapter, gets down to basic issues when she says that she is looking forward to a garbage-free city that does not have packs of stray dogs on the roads. “As a student I am also hoping for demonstration-free streets that are not hit by frequent strikes. I am also keeping my fingers crossed for safe surroundings for women.”

Now, for action. It is difficult to assume that all things will fall in place immediately. But, as they say, well begun is half done.