Protracted, unfruitful research in the part of Inland Water Navigation authorities of the Centre has resulted in the immense tourism potential of the Kollam-Kottapuram national waterway remaining unutilised, Transport Minister Jose Thettayil has said.

Re-launching the Alappuzha-Kollam luxury boat service of the State Water Transport Department (SWTD), which was defunct for 14 years, here on Tuesday, Mr. Thettayil said the Kollam-Kottapuram national waterway held as much tourism potential as the Alappuzha-Kollam route.

However, the continuing studies by inland water navigation authorities and the “flimsy reasons” they found to be obstructing the completion of the waterway had resulted in the ambitious project remaining a non-starter.

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan had taken up the issue and the State was trying to speed up the project, he said, adding that the Alappuzha-Kollam service of the SWTD, which was stopped in 1996, was being resumed with a luxury boat aimed at attracting tourists. The daily service, which would have halts at Thottappally (Rs. 50 ticket from Alappuzha), Thrikkunnapuzha Coir Village (Rs. 100), Aayiramthengu

(Rs.150), Amruthapuri (Rs. 200) and Chavara (Rs. 250) before reaching Kollam (Rs. 300), had its Kollam-Alappuzha leg re-launched on Monday from Kollam.

The SWTD, which the Minister said was slowly coming out of the red, had launched 14 new steel service boats in the last one year, while five more would be launched before March this year. Provisions for 13 more boats would be made in the forthcoming 2010-2011 State budget as well, he said.

Mr. Thettayil, who rued the fact that only 20 per cent of the potential of water transport was being utilised, said the SWTD, based in Alappuzha, the nerve-centre of water transport in the State, was making efforts to attract tourists by launching eco-friendly boats for services, with a special emphasis on safety.

Coir and Cooperation Minister G. Sudhakaran flagged off the service. A.A. Shukoor, MLA, presided over.

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