Ernakulam district shot to fame thanks to a boom in industry and commerce. Kochi owes its industrial prowess to its inherent commercial and geographical strengths.

While the geographical advantage continues to be in Kochi’s favour, its inability to provide necessary infrastructure to industry may take the district in reverse gear.

An ever increasing population and grossly inadequate transport facilities are obstructions in the path of new industries in the region. Thickly populated areas have no place for industrial establishments and people have started revolting against many of them mainly because of pollution.

Land acquisition for industrial areas is of utmost significance in the present context, says T.S. Chandran, vice-president of Kerala Industrial Extension Officers’ Association.

The budget has had no allocation for the purpose. The task before the authorities is to find suitable locations to set up industries in the future. Unlike other States, the land availability in Kerala is limited. But large tracts of land extending to a few hundred acres could be found out even in the existing scenario, according to him.

“Unless the government sets apart funds for land acquisition for industrial zones, it would not be possible for any industry to set up units in Ernakulam in the next decade,” says K.C. Ramachandran Nair, president of the Kerala State Small Industries Association.

The effort for identifying suitable land should start at the earliest as the land costs would become prohibitive in the years ahead. A few hundred acres need to be identified in each district so as to facilitate establishment of small industries, he says.

“The government, with a five-year mandate, should set specific targets for establishing infrastructure for industries and be able to accomplish them in a timely manner. It will be possible to get land in distant locations, may be in villages, away from thickly populated areas. Agriculture and industry should get priority in the government plans. Unless it happens, the so-called development in other spheres would be meaningless,” Mr.Nair says.

The task of acquiring land for entrepreneurs has been entrusted with agencies such as KSIDC, Kinfra and Inkel. Kinfra has set up a few parks in certain districts. In Ernakulam, there are industrial parks at Mazhuvannur and Nellad where most of the plots have already been allocated to applicants. Inkel has a multi-storey module, a facility with offers amenities for setting up industries, at Angamaly.

The industrial development areas set up by the government earlier at various locations in Ernakulam have had a good response from entrepreneurs, but many of the industrial units there turned out to be a bane for the neighbourhood because of pollution. The industrial development area at Edayar, extending over 400 acres, is a case in point. The pollution issues have posed serious health hazards as the many of the industries are ill equipped to treat effluents. The monitoring mechanism by Pollution Control Board too has had several lacunae.

Looking for a solution, Mr. Chandran said the stress should be on non-polluting industries whenever new units are being proposed. Mr.Nair, on the other hand, said certain unit owners were being blackmailed by a few of the green activists.

Kalamasserry, Vazhakkulam, Keenpuram and Angamaly are among the other industrial areas developed by the government. Some of the units at these areas have been wound up due to various reasons, but many of them are engaged in legal battle over the lease and other issues, making it unavailable to prospective entrepreneurs.

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