Those who visit Kochi can have an exciting experience of marine life soon at Puthu Vypin island, with the plans for a unique oceanarium project entering a decisive phase.

The Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation Limited (KSIDC), the nodal agency for the project, has kick-started the selection process for the developer of the oceanarium, which will be the first of its kind in the country.

A special purpose vehicle, in which the State Fisheries Resource Management Society (FIRMA) and the selected developer are partners, will set up the oceanarium in the public-private partnership (PPP) mode on design, build, finance, operate and transfer basis, a top official of KSIDC told The Hindu. The project is to be set up in 40 acres of government land, at a cost of Rs. 350 crore.

Open bidding

Though bids were floated during the fag end of the tenure of the previous LDF government, much response was not received. A renewed effort to find a suitable partner is on. KSIDC, which had conducted a pre-feasibility study on the project, will shortlist suitable developers through an open, international competitive bidding process.

The developer will have to invest Rs.100-150 crore while the remaining would be loan component, the official said. The project will be run on a 30-year lease.

The oceanarium envisages a ringside view of the aquatic life in the Arabian Sea through a 250 metre-long glass tunnel beneath the sea. The vibrancy of marine life, represented by coral reefs, sting rays, turtles, sharks and other fish, will be reproduced in the oceanarium by creating a marine environment. The oceanarium will also host a dolphin lagoon and related tourist amenities. An International Marine Biological Research Centre is also proposed as part of the project.

A consortium of Mahindra Consulting Engineers Limited and Jacques Rougerie Architecte of France has completed the detailed feasibility report and has undertaken conceptual design of the project. The new developer will be allowed to retain or make changes in the design prepared by the French architects, the official said.

The new partner will assist in conducting a detailed techno-commercial study. Clearances from the coastal zone management authority and environmental authorities are expected to be received in a month, the official said. It was decided to float proposals for appointing the partner without awaiting clearances from environmental authority to avoid further delay, especially as the project does not face any hurdles in respect of environmental issues, according to the official.

Oceanariums in places such as Dubai, Melbourne and Singapore have attracted attention from international tourists.

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