The city in 2014 will be a work in progress. MetroPlus tells you why

As swanky buildings rise on our skyline, as our littoral waters bustle with boats , as our hospitals cure and heal our people , as hotels dish out a mind-boggling variety, as our shops and stores glitter with world class inventory, the city is in the throes of a big infrastructural change in 2014.

We can raise a gutsy toast to 2014, going by the projects underway and waiting to be launched. The earth movers—cranes and forklifts, dumpers and trucks—are going to be permanent sights, traffic diversions will be common , and Kochi will be a work in progress.

District Collector P. I. Sheikh Pareeth says on his wish list are committed projects that are expected to give development a push in the right direction and make Kochi more liveable.

Water and power

The city and its suburbs are struggling with a shortage of potable water.

“I look forward to the 100 MLD water supply JNNURM project from Muvattupuzha River, which will ease the long-pending demand of potable water in West Kochi and the city. A filtration unit at Maradu is ready and the final stretch of pipe-laying is on. This project will be commissioned in January-February. Every year we spend Rs. 6 crore on drinking water supply to Vypeen, Kadamakkudi and the places on this belt. Work on the 60 MLD project is on and we hope to complete it, at least providing 30 MLD by March 2014,” says Pareeth.

Among the projects is the 500-MW power project using ‘petcoke’ to be produced by the BPCL Kochi Refinery, after the completion of the Integrated Refinery Expansion Project (IREP). “It is estimated that power from the plant will be available at a very competitive rate. A preliminary feasibility study of the project has been done. The government has acquired 200 acres for the IREP project and we have also identified land that is needed for the power plant.”

Transport

There is hope for better, faster alternative transport options and good roads, too.

“The new year is going to be a challenge as a chunk of work on the Metro Rail needs to be completed if the 2016 deadline has to be met. We need to complete work on the major area, from NH 47 and 17 to MG Road right up to Vytilla. We are also going to expand the waterway project. The boat service will now begin from Thevara and go up to Kakkanad. A new boat, at a cost of Rs. 90 lakh, is being built. Once that comes, we will explore the possibility of extending this service to Piravom and Tripunithura, linking it with the existing routes.”

Culture

Pareeth also has plans for his favourite cultural projects. “The city-centered programmes will be extended to other centres like Fort Kochi and Muvattupuzha. The Durbar Hall centre is now equipped with a new, imported film projector and we will launch the New Year programmes soon. We will also organise an international film festival, which will be more representative in 2014.”

Tourism

S. Harikishore, tourism director, is upbeat about tourism in the coming year, despite only a slight increase in tourist arrivals this season. He says, “there are a number of projects underway”, the Kochi specific ones being the Muziris Heritage Project, which will be launched in January, and the ‘hop on-hop off’ boat service and the water taxi service, which would begin operations by March.

District Tourism Promotion Council Secretary, T.N. Jayashankar, too is hopeful about the completion of some projects. “The four projects that will be ready by March are the Muvattupuzha River project that will give the banks of the Periyar a walkway and a small park, the Chottanikara Pilgrim Facilitation centre, which will ensure better facilities for the devotees, the Paravur Court Complex Beautification Project and the Vypeen Beautification Project.” Popularising adventure tourism is his aim for 2014. “Kochi is destination unlimited. We have potential for houseboat, wildlife and cultural tourism. The city is concentrating on only a few areas while the others remain untapped,” he says.

Entertainment

GCDA Chairman N. Venugopal paints an upbeat picture. “Two major projects we are working on are an exhibition-cum-convention centre near the international stadium in Kaloor and an aquarium at Marine Drive. The convention centre will come up in a nine-acre area, with hall space up to 20,000 sq. ft, underground car parking and a food court. The aquarium is another massive project that we plan to carry forward on a public-private partnership, with the private partner operating the entertainment facilities. Both these projects are now at tender application stage and we aim to complete about 80 percent of the work in 2014.”

Despite such attractive projects gaining steam, the GCDA has not forgotten the woes of the average citizen. “Construction of the Chambakkara-Thevara bund road through Chilavanoor is progressing quickly, and will be completed in a few months. The road should help ease the congestion on the Sahodaran-Ayyappan road and reduce bottlenecks. We are also working on coming up with a shopping mall at Manapatti Parambu and carrying out renovations at the Ambedkar stadium,” says Venugopal.

Planning does not end there, Venugopal goes on to give a glimpse of things that may yet come to pass as he discusses plans for helium balloon rides and a cable car ride on a 4-km stretch near Marine Drive. “However, these projects require permission from concerned agencies, so they are still on the horizon for now,” he elaborates.

With ambitious projects rising skyward and existing facilities being upgraded, Kochi is on a slow but steady path to improvement. It may take some time, and there is plenty of construction to bear as we watch the city iron out its kinks. But as they say, Rome was not built in a day.