Five years since the Thanneerchal tourism project was first mooted officially by the Thiruvankulam grama panchayat, the venture is still in the making.
The project, revived by Tripunithura Municipality after it merged with the panchayat, was re-launched last January with a target of completing the first phase by January this year.
In fact, some part of the project was expected to be opened to the public by April last year. But, all that is visible on the ground are three half-done resting pavilions, a walkway being built on the side of the lake and the crude structure of an open-air stage and gallery.
Despite the ground realities, R. Venugopal, chairman, Tripunithura Municipality, is hopeful of completing the first phase by January next year. The project that is expected to have cultural and recreational potential, with the Hill Palace Museum located just 500 metres away, was mired in spats between the ruling and opposition parties, who alleged corruption.
Works started only by April this year as tenders were put on hold because of a by-election to the Assembly. Though the project is expected to overrun its initial estimate of Rs.4.5 crore, Mr. Venugopal, says resources will not be a problem as sponsorships are expected for quite a few materials.
Works worth Rs.1.75 crore had been awarded to complete the first phase, he says. The municipality had earmarked Rs.50 lakh for the project, which has not been utilised so far.
The slow pace of the project was mostly because of heavy rain this year, says Mr. Venugopal. He told The Hindu that the one-acre front space area had to be filled with earth worth nearly Rs.30 lakh. It will take time for such a place to get a firm ground before construction begins, he adds.
A clock tower, magic box, cafeteria with three food courts, canteen and ticket counter will be ready soon as work speeds up after Onam. Piling work for these has already been done.
Special lighting needed for the area has been bought. Finishing works like landscaping, doing up the children’s play area and car park area need to be done, he says.
Overall, the project is spread over 12 acres including the lake with a pathway planned around it. After inaugurating the first phase, the municipality will consider going for a loan, says Mr. Venugopal.
S. Gopakumar, architect, who designed the project, admits the work is moving at a slow pace. He says the project, unlike others, involves landscaping which is time-consuming. The building’s designs were prepared keeping in mind Tripunithura’s heritage value, he says.
Most of the initial Rs.1 crore provided by BPCL-Kochi Refineries Limited was said to have been spent on firming up the lake’s bank with granite. Mr. Venugopal says the work that was done some two to three years ago had to be redone as the foundation of the bank wall had sunk and granite stones were coming off.
However, residents allege that the earth used to firm up the ground was used to block the canal that joins the lake from across the road. A culvert over the canal, thickly overgrown with weeds and grass, makes it difficult to spot the block. The canal is already in a pitiable state as it is littered with plastic bottles and other waste.
Mr. Venugopal claims the flow of the canal had receded because of encroachments on the other side of the road. Only waste water from the nearby hotels is flowing into the canal, he says.