As political bosses and administrators trade charges over the delay in launching the modern water transport system, millions are being denied of access to opportunities and livelihood in the city.
Even after obtaining a detailed pre-feasibility project report for the sector two years ago, the project has not made any significant progress. The civic administrators had also promised to launch the project in the annual budget presented last year. If implemented, it would have saved the precious travelling time of millions of passengers apart from being eco-friendly.
K. J. Sohan, chairman of the Town Planning Standing Committee of the Kochi Corporation, blamed a section of the administrators for deliberately delaying the project which would have revolutionised the urban transport sector.
Of the 16 urban local bodies in the urban agglomerate of Kochi, 12 are managing their own water transport systems including junkars and passenger boats. The delay in setting up a comprehensive water transport system should be considered as the denial of access to better living conditions and livelihood for hundreds of people in the district, said Mr. Sohan.
The pre-feasibility assessment report for Kochi, which was jointly funded by the Kochi Corporation and the Cities Development Initiative for Asia, had identified five routes for upgradation of the water transport network. This included the Vypeen-Fort Kochi, Mattanchery-Fort Kochi- Ernakulam and High Court, Edakochi-Thevara, Panchayat Terminal to High Court and Ernakulam via Sicily Jetty, Hospital Jetty, Ponnarimangalam Jetty and North Jetty, Kumbalam to Chittoor via Ernakulam and High Court and Vaduthala terminals.
Ajith B. Patil, secretary of the Kochi Corporation, maintained that there had not been any delay regarding the project. Being a major infrastructure project, many policy decisions need to be taken and discussions had to be held. The corporation is in the process of holding discussions with KITCO for preparing a Detailed Project Report. The civic body will also explore funding options with the Union and State governments, he said.
Mr. Patil said that all the proposals regarding the project will be placed before the Kochi Corporation Council by December for approval.
Besides the upgradation, 15 new or improved ferry terminal facilities and introduction of 12 catamaran passenger vessels, ‘Kochi Cats’ with individual capacity of 163 passengers, too were proposed. It was also estimated that the system proposed for Kochi would save “75,000 avoidable private vehicle trips or approximately 2,500 avoidable bus trips per day.”
Floating pontoons (floating docks), covered walkways from the vessels to the waiting areas, pedestrian ramps and site landscaping and cosmetic improvements were also part of the proposed Rs. 2,279 crore project. It was also suggested that the project should be thrown open for passengers in 2012.