Says bidding process will end in August

The government is optimistic about getting the Vizhinjam port work started by the end of this year, Minister for Ports K. Babu told the Assembly on Wednesday.

He was responding to a calling attention motion moved by Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.

The bidding process recently launched to award the work on the basic port infrastructure and to find a port operator, who would set up the port superstructure, would be completed at least by August this year, he said.

“This means we would be able to begin the construction of the port’s breakwater structure at least by December,” he said.

Moving the motion, Mr. Balakrishnan said the government had chosen the public-private-partnership (PPP) model to execute the project, although that route had proven unsuccessful when tried twice in the past — first during the term of the 2001-06 United Democratic Front (UDF) government and then during the initial stage of the 2006-11 Left Democratic Front (LDF) government.

It was the failure of these attempts to find a private partner for the project that had prompted the previous LDF government, after a viability study by the International Finance Corporation, to adopt the ‘landlord model’ for the project, he said.

Mr. Babu sought to correct Mr. Balakrishnan’s ‘impression’ that the government had, while starting the bidding process, altered the model under which the project was to be set up.

Landlord model

The plan even now was for the State to act as the ‘landlord’ of the project and it would be the responsibility of the government to set up the basic infrastructure such as the breakwater and the shipping berths. Land reclamation and dredging works along the shipping channel, which too was initially conceived as the responsibility of the ‘landlord,’ would now be given to the port operator to be selected through the bidding process.

Otherwise, no change had been made in the model of project execution, Mr. Babu said.

Mr. Balakrishnan said the LDF was, per se, not opposed to the PPP model. It wanted the project to become a reality, and not ‘torpedoed’ by certain forces.

Commercial aspect

The State government has not yet probed the reported commercial reasons behind the frequent pipe-bursts in the city and its suburbs, Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph has said.

Replying to questions in the Assembly on Wednesday, Mr. Joseph said the Vigilance Department had directed the Director, Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB), to file a report on the matter.

The government was aware of the hardships caused to the public due to frequent pipe-bursts, but no inquiry had been ordered into the reported commercial interests behind the bursts.

A four-member committee headed by former Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar had looked into the issue on February 25. The government had directed the Managing Director of the Kerala Water Authority to examine the report and submit suggestions, the Minister said.