Renovation plans await sanction, say officials

Through the drapery of wild foliage, a marble plaque introduces the dilapidated building as the ‘Port Guesthouse’. But a flex board hanging on the cracked and weed-ridden front wall of the edifice contradicts the plaque. It says ‘Port Office’. The decaying structure is neither.

With orange and green painting peeling off, the building situated on Kozhikode beach is an unofficial “public urinal” and a watering spot for anti-socials.

It overlooks a huge mound of plastic garbage and is the next-door neighbour of a children’s park on the beach. The building has been stripped off its windows and wooden doors are seen hanging loosely by their hinges.

Thick undergrowth, an almost non-existential compound wall, and a total absence of streetlights make access easy.

The faded plaque shows the building was inaugurated on April 14, 1968, by then Minister of Transport and Ports E.K. Imbichi Bava. It had then changed roles to serve the government as the district’s port office till it was shifted to Beypore three years ago.

“People treat this building as a public urinal. Earlier, local people used to stop visitors from going in. Now, nobody seems to mind. Besides, this is the beach area, all kinds of people land here,” Usman K.P., a local person, said.

But the Port Department, which owns the plot and the building, claimed to have plans for the building. Officials said that a proposal to renovate the building was yet to get a response from the government.

They said that a Rs.40-lakh renovation package had been mooted.

The project included converting the building to house the offices of the port conservator and internal vigilance officer and project monitoring officer of the department.

“An earlier proposal to renovate the building through the Kerala Police Housing and Construction Corporation Limited did not work out because it ended up with the police getting a chunk of the space. So we decided to revise the project. Besides, the Port Department is in expansion mode, with new internal sections being added to improve transparency and efficiency. So we decided to keep the building to ourselves. The delay is because of this change in plans,” a senior port official said on the condition of anonymity.

Now, the office of the port conservator, whose major functions include monitoring of port and coastal land conservation, is temporarily housed nearby at the Signal Station, which was renovated only last year.

“We wanted to construct a fence around the property. The biggest problem in the area is lack of light. There was a proposal to erect a billboard on the property – this would mean income from the advertisement and the place will be lit up,” Captain Abraham V. Kuriakose, Port Officer, Kozhikode, said.

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