‘Lack of infrastructure hampering economic growth’

The government’s policy is to usher in development in the State without trampling on the environment and integrate both, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said.

He was inaugurating a two-day national seminar on ‘Transport Vision Kerala 2030’ organised by the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (Natpac) here on Monday.

Mr. Chandy said protection of the environment was necessary for the future, and development initiatives would have to be taken up without affecting the environment.

On Gadgil panel

He said he was surprised by the report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel headed by Madhav Gadgil and that Idukki and Wayanad districts figured under ecologically sensitive zones. He said the government did not fully oppose the report, and wanted the panel to adopt a practical approach.

Mr. Chandy spoke on the report after K. Muraleedharan, MLA, who presided over the function, said that development of the Vattiyurkvau junction in his constituency would be hampered by the panel findings.

With Kerala emerging as an investor-friendly destination, the need of the hour was practical steps, time-bound execution of projects, and result-oriented approach.

Mr. Chandy said the State lagged behind in creating infrastructure despite the achievements made in various sectors. This was becoming a major drawback. Creating infrastructure would bring investment, job opportunities, development, and economic growth to the State.

The public transport system needed to be developed. Different modes of transport, such as rail, road, waterway, and air, should be integrated to reduce the dependence on private vehicles and the resulting congestion on the roads. Monorail, metro rail, and modern low-floor buses were being introduced with this aim. The State also needed to exploit the waterways effectively to transport goods, he said.

Upgrade of National Highways 47 and 17 was not on expected lines owing to opposition to land acquisition and toll collection, he said.

Pointing out that the construction of the Nedumbaseery airport was a model for the whole country, Mr. Chandy said securing funds was not a problem. Kerala could not oppose the public-private partnership (PPP) and Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) models for development initiatives.

The government would protect the interests of the State, he said.

Kerala State Council for Science, Technology, and Environment executive vice-president V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, Minister for Power and Transport Aryadan Mohammed, Minister for Fisheries and Ports K. Babu, and Natpac director B.G. Sreedevi spoke at the inaugural session.