Even as Kochi readies to host the Emerging Kerala investment summit and the Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) in September, civic infrastructure in the city is far from hospitable.
A few thousand entrepreneurs and decisive stakeholders in the tourism industry are set to arrive in the city from across the globe for the two events. Many arterial roads and footpaths are in dilapidated shape, despite there being very little rain during the monsoon.
Indiscriminate parking and encroachments have made matters worse, giving commuters and traffic policemen a harrowing time.
A senior PWD (Roads) official said that works have been arranged to resurface most of the roads. “But it is doubtful whether the repairs will be over before the Emerging Kerala summit to be inaugurated on September 13 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.” The KTM will be inaugurated on September 27.
The sole repair work carried out by the PWD during the monsoon in the city was the paving of a small stretch of a potholed road in front of Hotel Renai in Palarivattom using inter-locking tiles.
Prominent roads owned by the agency in the city like the Foreshore Road, Park Avenue Road, Vyttila-Pettah Road and the Palarivattom-Thammanam Road (which was dug up by the KWA over five months ago) are ridden with potholes. Similar is the plight of the Kaniampuzha Road that leads to the Vyttila mobility hub that was resurfaced less than a year ago.
Potholes have not been filled over the Kundanoor Bridge (used daily by thousands of tourists visiting West Kochi and Wellingdon Island) and the Edappally overbridge on NH 17, despite accidents becoming frequent. Both the bridges are owned and maintained by the PWD (NH wing). The Kochi Corporation is yet to repair badly-potholed roads in the Fort Kochi heritage zone, a tourism hub.
Neither has Kerala Tourism cleaned up the Ernakulam Boat Jetty, from where hundreds of tourists and regular passengers board ferries to Fort Kochi and Mattancherry.
“Woefully inadequate transportation infrastructure is a major problem haunting the city. As a result, people think twice before visiting Kochi,” said Sree Kumar, director, Sales and Marketing of Le Meridien, where the two events will be held.
“Visitors, especially national and international guests, are peeved that commuting 32 km through the congested highway from the international airport to our hotel often takes hours. Steps must be taken to build flyovers, at least at the four major junctions on the Edappally-Aroor NH 47 bypass. Frequent digging up of roads is another problem. Inadequacy of roads will affect the inflow of investments,” he said, while lauding the government’s initiative to attract investors.
The management of the KTDC-owned Bolghatty Palace Hotel is concerned at the haphazard parking of container lorries on either side of the road that leads to the hotel. “Vehicles carrying guests are often unable to negotiate through the chaos created by the lorries and the ramshackle workshops that have come up on the side. The road was built using tourism funds, so that guests could have easy access to the hotel and the adjacent Kochi international marina,” said Alex Joshua, the hotel’s manager.
A few programmes in connection with the two events would be held at the hotel.