The Hindu looks at the many facets of life in Kozhikode and the myriad challenges before the port city in a week-long series.
As high-rises and multiplexes dot the emerging metropolitan landscape of the city, several of the government’s ventures drag on.
The projects, ranging from modernisation of the Beypore port to building an international convention centre to providing street lights, suffer for reasons as varied as red tape, turf war, internal labour issues, or simply lack of right investors.
Take for example the case of the Beypore port, the second largest in Kerala after Kochi, which handles over 90 per cent of the cargo among minor ports in the State.
The State Port Department booklet on ‘Maritime Business Venture in Kerala’ at the ‘Emerging Kerala’ succinctly explains the port’s current plight: “The port at the Land of the Dhows is waiting for the right investor.”
After global e-tenders consistently failed to attract investors, the port recently kicked off the much-awaited capital dredging work to increase the water depth from the existing 3.5 metres to 5 metres.
“Investors were not coming forward. So, we went ahead with the development works,” Port Officer Captain Abraham V. Kuriakose said.
The dredging will ensure easy passage for vessels during high and low tides, and increase the volume of trade through Kozhikode. “Since we don’t have any private investors as of now, we are using government funds,” Mr. Kuriakose said.
Work on a 200-metre dedicated berth for Lakshadweep, the major destination point for vessels at the Beypore Port, has also lost steam.
Recently, the State had earmarked Rs.2 crore to tighten security at the port with high-end surveillance systems, including closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) and baggage screening facilities.
Meanwhile, closer to the heart of the city, a multi-crore joint venture between Infrastructures Kerala Ltd. (INKEL) and Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (KINFRA) to build an international convention centre continues to be a non-starter.
The land earmarked for the convention centre on Gandhi Road is still lying as puramboke despite Mayor A.K. Premajam agreeing that the city is in dire need of a spacious convention centre within the Corporation limits.
“As of now, we only have the Tagore Centenary Hall, and this is used for both weddings and social programmes. We need space,” the Mayor said.
Again, venturing out at night has become a white-knuckled experience for the people of the city. While the city Corporation’s annual budget shows that Rs.2.55 crore was earmarked for street lighting for the current 2012-13 fiscal year, its main roads and arterial bypasses continue to remain dark alleys.
The Corporation blames it on the State government. “The problem started when the government, without informing us, imposed on the local bodies the duty to maintain street lights,” the Mayor said.
She said no agencies had so far responded to tenders called for maintenance and repair of street lights. There is also a Lok Adalat order of January 9 to consider solar-powered LED street lights.
City Police Commissioner G. Sparjan Kumar said, “Danger lurks at points where bye-lanes meet bypasses. These are accident-prone areas; lack of street lights makes them worse.”
Experts say if these problems persist, the city will not be able to sustain itself in light of the rapid march of urbanisation across the district.
The statistics with the Regional Town Planning Office show that the percentage of urban population has increased from 38.25 per cent to 67.15 per cent - almost twice in number - in the past one decade.
The chart says that while only 19 areas in the district showed urban characteristics in 2001, the 2011 Census found 52.
Town planning officials say it is time Kozhikode embraces its identity as an “emerging” metro and plans for the future.