Staff Reporter

Union Secretary reviews progress of the container project

Collector promises to complete acquisition of the required land by May 31

November 2009 tentatively fixed as date for finishing the proejct

KOCHI: Union Shipping Secretary A.P.V.N. Sharma on Monday directed the district revenue authorities to acquire the entire land required for the rail and road connectivity for the proposed Vallarpadam International Container Transhipment Terminal (ICTT) within a month.

He gave the direction at a meeting held at the Cochin Port Trust to review the progress of the ICTT project on Monday. District Collector M. Beena, who was present at the meeting, agreed to comply with the direction and to complete the acquisition process by May 31.

Mr. Sharma said that the Union government had done everything on its part for the project. It was now for the State government to complete land acquisition without any delay. If the State government faltered in this, the completion of the project would be affected, Mr. Sharma said. Earlier, he visited the project area and expressed satisfaction about the work completed so far.

Dr. Beena said that everything that was within the limits of the district administration would be done, while issues that remain unresolved would be referred to the State government. She said that November 2009 has evolved as the date for putting in place the rail and road connectivity.

She said that land acquisition for the rail link had been the most problematic. Land in Cheranalloor and Mulavukad villages was yet to be completely acquired. The Railways had done 10 per cent more work than as required under the time schedule, Kesavachandran, Deputy General Manager of Railway Vikas Nigam Limited, said.

Timely completion of the project would not be possible unless the remaining land were made available, he said.

Only a little land remains to be acquired for the road connectivity, Sreekumar Shelvam of the National Highways Authority of India said. The Collector said that obstructions to work on the land that had already been acquired would not be allowed. There was no legal hurdle in carrying out the work on such land.

In such cases work would start immediately with protection, the Collector said.

She said that even those landowners who had handed over land were now demanding a package similar to the one offered to those displaced at Moolamppilly.

It is a policy decision to be taken by the State, she said.

She also hinted that the district administration would be forced to take over the land of those people who had not yet even signed the consent letter. She, however, said that utmost care would be taken to avert a Moolamppilly-like situation.

N. Ramachandran, Chairman, Cochin Port Trust, said that 97 per cent of the total land required for road and rail connectivity had been acquired.

He, however, added that the land that was yet to be acquired was in the most critical zone of the project. Subhash Kumar, Deputy Chairman of CPT; J. Karthikeyan, chief engineer; R. Ramadevi, Additional District Magistrate in-charge; Susheela Jacob; ICTT special tahsildar; and Suresh Joseph, general manager of Dubai Ports International were also present.