A meeting of public representatives, political parties and officials convened here on Thursday by Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac has proposed a package to clean and beautify the historic canals of Alappuzha.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting, held at the Collectorate in the presence of Collector P. Venugopal, and K.C. Venugopal, MP, Dr. Isaac said the package, which would comprise multi-pronged steps to regain the past glory of the canals, would be implemented even as feasibility studies on the development of the port and the linking of the canals to the port and the sea were being done.

Preliminary studies on the canal-sea linkage had thrown up the proposal to have two pipes leading from the canals to the sea, with the canals to extend at least 150 feet into the sea so as to prevent their clogging with sand. The preliminary studies had pegged the cost at Rs.4 crore and further studies would be carried out by experts to vet this proposal while an environmental impact appraisal would also be done. Once this was over, administrative sanction would be given to the project, probably by July with work to begin by september and the project would be completed this year itself, the Minister said.

Meanwhile, the Irrigation Department has been asked to prepare an estimate and plan for dredging of the canals to be taken up, so as to clean the canals of the garbage and silt that has settled into its bed over the last several decades. Once dredging was done, stringent steps would be taken to prevent further dumping of garbage into the canals.

Police cases would be booked against those depositing waste in the canal. Home guards from the police and patrol teams from the District Tourism Promotion Council would guard the canals, imposing hefty fines as well on miscreants, Dr. Isaac said.

An awareness campaign on keeping the canals clean and special meetings with ward sabhas and traders would be initiated while the Municipality would see to it that hoardings and advertising boards were removed from the sides of the canals. Necessary help would also be extended to the Perfect Agri-Management Corporation, a Kochi-based private firm that had been contracted to manage the canals, the Minister added.

A.A. Shukoor, Thomas Chandy, MLAs, R. Nazar, District Panchayat president and P.P. Chitharanjan, Municipal Chairman, also spoke.

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