The existing sewerage system of Kochi covers hardly five per cent of the total city area. The scheme was originally implemented in the early ’50s when Kochi was a municipality.

Sewerage and sanitation projects proposed for Kochi have been hit by a fund crunch and hold up of policy decision making.

The Kochi Corporation had earlier drawn up plans for setting up two projects in the city, one for central city and another one for the West Kochi areas. In both cases, the delay in implementing them had resulted in cost escalation, and the civic body is finding the going tough.

The existing sewerage system of Kochi covers hardly five per cent of the total city area. The scheme was originally implemented in the early ’50s when Kochi was a municipality. The sewerage system has not progressed an inch since then, said a civic administrator.

For the central city area, the project was to establish a new plant at the premises of the existing plant at Chilavannur and nine pumping stations. Land acquisition notifications were also issued for six of the nine stations too. The cost of the project has reached Rs.155 crore from the original Rs.73 crore during the last four years that has passed by since the project was approved. The funding agency is unwilling to pay the revised estimate and the cash-strapped Kochi Corporation is not in a position to meet the expenses, said a civic administrator.

The civic authorities are looking up to the State government to foot the bill. The Corporation needs to persuade the State government to support the project, which is essential for a developing city like Kochi. The absence of proper sewerage system would be a blot on the image of any modern city, he pointed out.

A State government proposal for a new sewerage treatment plant in West Kochi area in cooperation with the Cochin Port Trust (CPT) has raised questions about the future of the project proposed at Mundamveli. As the government has expressed its desire that the Kochi Corporation too should join the initiative, which would be a Public Private Participation project, the city cannot back out. The CPT has earmarked five acres for the project, which would be used for treating septage. The CPT also needs such a project for treating the septage from the visiting ships.

An earlier proposal of the Kochi Corporation for setting up a plant at Mundamveli had ended up in legal wrangles and the civic body was pulled up for violating the Coastal Regulation Zone guidelines. As it took two years for the Kochi Corporation to free the project from squabbles, the cost of the project has escalated to Rs.100 crore from the earlier estimate of Rs. 43 crore, pointed out a civic administrator.

With the proposal for setting up the project in PPP mode on the land of the CPT, questions are being raised whether the civic body should go ahead with its original project. Several policy issues need to be cleared before the corporation takes a final call. An easy decision is unlikely in the issue as several agencies including the Asian Development Bank are involved in the project, he said.

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