Kozhikode Ports department says the land is used to park lorries

In a shocker for the District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC), the Ports Department expressed strong reservations about losing its land to a multi-crore project to convert over two acres of the South Beach area into a tourist hotspot.

The development has come even as the DTPC is gearing up to invite State Tourism Minister A.P. Anil Kumar to lay the foundation stone for the first phase of the ‘Tourism development of Kozhikode South Beach’ project.

Though the Tourism Minister was said to come on October 4 for the function, the event has been postponed, DTPC sources said on Tuesday. They are however quick to add that the postponement has nothing to do with the ports department’s communication about the land in question.

The ports department has said it has very little land left in the district and would not want to let go of this prize estate along the city’s coastline without getting alternative land in return.

It said that by giving away the land on South Beach for beautification, the department, and eventually the State government, would lose hard-earned revenue in the form of monthly rent from a lorry parking site in the area.

Senior officials said that they are also not too encouraged by the past record of the Tourism Department in developing the beach.

They point to how past tourism projects on the beach are not great examples to go by.

Most of them are lying abandoned or in a bad state of repair despite lakhs of rupees spent on them, sources said.

“See, we are not against the beautification of the South Beach area. What we are trying to make the DTPC understand is that the port department has very little land available and this particular one gives us a monthly income of over Rs. 50,000,” Captain Abraham V. Kuriakose, Port Officer, said.

He stressed on how the port office had ‘given away’ land in the past for development.

“Take for example the lorry parking site in the south beach area. Valiyangadi, one of the city’s oldest market, is located nearby. Trucks coming to this market had no space to park. We decided to give a portion of this land as parking area to facilitate the public. Now, once they knock down the parking area, where will all these trucks go? Have they thought about this issue?” Captain Kuriakose asked.

He said that the ports department had even helped the DTPC scout for the alternative land, and had found one in Beypore.

The beautification project proposal text says the DTPC launched the initiative as it felt the South Beach area is too rough or ‘undeveloped’ for the tastes of weekend beach-goers.

To be implemented through the Harbour Engineering Department in two phases, the project’s first part is expected to cost Rs.3.85 crore.

Under this, a promenade, seating plazas, amphitheatre, mini high-mast lights, pavilions, play areas, soft landscaping, a drinking water point, and waste bins will be in place.

The second phase would cost Rs.5 crore and is more complicated. In this phase, the land takeover would mean displacing an entire colony of 36 BPL families and small businesses located all along the length of South Beach Road.

Though the district administration says there is a proposal to rehabilitate the 36 families, very little is seen on the ground.

District Collector C.A. Latha, also the Chairperson of the District Tourism Promition Council told The Hindu on Tuesday that the South Beach beautification project cannot go ahead without resolving the objection raised by the Ports Department regarding alternative land. “We will put up the issue for discussion at the earliest,” she added.