Kochi needs a master plan that will accelerate the city’s infrastructure development, but it should not degrade the environment, according to various stakeholders.
Experts recalled that alternate rows of swales and sandbars, running from north to south, were the dominant features of what is today the city of Kochi. Canals and large swathes of wetlands have given way to thoroughfares and arterial roads.
A.G.K. Menon, renowned urban planner, said future growth of the city should be guided in way that it took care of this ecosystem. “Kochi has also become a very important economic centre. That is an important element while defining the future growth of the city,” he said.
Urging planners to have a “regional vision plan as part of developing a master plan,” Mr. Menon said being a premier city Kochi would have the tendency to attract more people. “The challenge will be to mitigate this problem or else it might become unmanageable,” he said.
Stating that Kochi’s master plan should look towards the eastern side for development, S. Gopakumar, noted architect, said the priority should be on evolving a master plan that would link the nearby panchayats and municipalities in various developmental projects.
Planning open spaces
“Why can’t we develop our waterways? Take the example of Edappally canal, which was widely used as a channel for navigation decades back. Rampant encroachment has seriously affected the natural ecology of the canal. Improving road network and open space planning are key areas that we need to focus,” he said. Suggesting that there was lack of expertise in preparing a scientific master plan, V. Gopalakrishna Pillai, Senior Town Planner of Greater Cochin Development Authority, said local bodies should be given the power to design plans as per the development needs of each region. “Land use pattern should be the main focus while drawing a master plan for a city like Kochi. Fixing of unscientific floor area ratio will not help in developing the infrastructure of the city,” he said.
C. M. Joy, environmentalist and secretary of the All Kerala River Protection Council, said the master plan should include a clause banning reclamation of the backwaters. “Authorities must ensure that no development project is sanctioned near the North and South Railway overbridges. Development should shift more towards Aluva and Kakkanad. The city also requires a greening plan,” he said.