Official calls for streamlining ferry services
Passenger ferries are in short supply and boat jetties are in dilapidated condition in Kochi, which once boasted a good waterway network.
This is despite the fact that water transport is the fastest, most economical, eco-friendly and energy-efficient mode of transport. The waterways need little maintenance, unlike roads that have to be repaired frequently.
This was the sentiment expressed by K.J. Sohan, chairman of Kochi Corporation’s Town Planning standing committee, when he said, “Why do people of West Kochi have to travel 14 km by road to reach Kochi city and pay over Rs.10 for an hour-long bus journey through congested roads? They can reach the city in less than 20 minutes by boat for Rs.2.50, through the 3-km-long waterway.”
The State Water Transport Department is unable to provide adequate number of boats from the city to West Kochi and Vypeen, since most of its vessels are under repair at any given time. The eight brand new fibre boats that it purchased from the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) over five years ago are not being used, after the department contented that they were unsafe.
Boats and jankars plying in the Fort Kochi-Vypeen route too are unable to meet the increasing demand from commuters. The demand for resuming boat services (which were withdrawn after the Goshree bridges were built) from the city to different places in Mulavukad is gaining momentum because of inadequate bus services from the city and the delay in widening narrow roads within the island.
The Kerala Tourism-owned Ernakulam boat jetty and its premises are also in dilapidated condition. The Customs Jetty in Fort Kochi is hard pressed for space, while the one at Kamalakadavu in the Fort Kochi heritage zone is under-utilised.
Mr. Sohan wondered why the Water Transport Department’s passenger ferries called at Customs Jetty, which is a kilometre from the Kamalakadavu jetty that is located right next to the Fort Kochi bus stand.
The KSINC and the Goshree Islands Development Authority (GIDA) are the other agencies that have plans to begin boat services from the city to the islands and other places in the district. The School of Management Studies, Cusat, is expected to submit a report to KSINC on the feasibility of plying boats from the city to West Kochi.
“Considering the advantages, passengers will prefer water transport if faster and more comfortable boats are introduced along different routes. The once-navigable Edapally canal too has to be revitalised, by removing encroachments and rebuilding bridges that have a vertical clearance of less than 4.5 metres from the water surface,” said a KSINC official.