Kochi

Chinese nets likely to get a facelift soon

Heritage enthusiasts such as former Mayor K.J. Sohan have opposed the proposed Water Metro boat terminal in between the Chinese nets in Fort Kochi.

Heritage enthusiasts such as former Mayor K.J. Sohan have opposed the proposed Water Metro boat terminal in between the Chinese nets in Fort Kochi.   | Photo Credit: H. Vibhu

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Kitco to implement ₹2.44-crore project to renovate iconic symbols of Kochi

The decade-long wait by fishers on the Fort Kochi beach front to get lengthy teak logs to renovate the iconic Chinese fishing nets is set to end, with Kerala Tourism getting ready to set the ₹2.44 crore project in motion within a fortnight.

The Kerala Tourism had entrusted Kerala Industrial and Technology Consultancy Organisation (Kitco) with the task of implementing the project following a fall in the number of nets from 14 over a decade ago to the present eight. The KITCO is set to ink an agreement within a week with the Forest Department to obtain forest teak logs, which had been identified by stakeholders who included a team of net operators.

“The wood will be made available following which an expert team from among the net operators will replace worn-out wooden frames of the Chinese nets with new ones. The work will be monitored by Kitco. Renovation of the nets will give an impetus to both fishing operations and tourism. The net operators will not have to bear any expense,” said R. Rajkumar, Joint Director of Kerala Tourism, which would bear the expense of the cost of teak logs and the labour cost to erect the frames.

The difficulty in sourcing standardised logs and their prohibitive cost had resulted in operators of many nets substituting them with galvanised-iron pipes, affecting their aesthetics.

Tourism sources attributed the delay in procuring the teak to revision of the project estimate.

The Kitco had given purchase order to the Forest Department. The allotment was made on the basis of the revised rate.

A senior Kitco official said that the Forest Department had approved the draft of the proposed agreement. The money for the teak logs had been handed over to the department. But it was tough to find sufficiently lengthy logs with no curves to assemble the frame of the cantilever nets, he said.

Sebastian Kurishinkal, vice president of the Chinese Net Owners’ Association, expressed dismay at the inordinate delay in getting the teak logs. “More nets could have been salvaged if Kerala Tourism and other stakeholders in the sector had intervened, when sea erosion led to most of the nets suffering extensive damage. Over the years, they wooed tourists to Kochi by marketing images of the nets that dot the beach of the heritage town as Kochi’s iconic landmarks.”

Mr. Kurishinkal further sought proactive steps by the Kerala Tourism, the police, the Revenue Department and the Kochi Corporation to remove vendors and other encroachers who block a view of the historic nets which are said to have been brought to Kochi by the Chinese over 500 years ago.

Heritage enthusiast and former Mayor K.J. Sohan said that the eight nets were the sole ones in the world to be drawn by as many as six people at a time. “Each net is interlinked with the history of the area. They will draw more tourists to Fort Kochi if conservation architects help the net operators with the design for a ramp where a couple of tables and chairs can be laid out for guests. They will thus be able to savour fish caught using the very same nets,” Mr. Sohan said.

Concern over terminal

Meanwhile, Chinese fishing-net operators, heritage enthusiasts and officials of Kerala Tourism have expressed concern at the proposal by Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) to build a terminal for the Water Metro project in between the nets.

The terminal would sound the death knell for the historic nets, since a concrete construction would prop up in between them, Mr. Sohan said. “Moreover, the terminal has been proposed beyond Kamalakadavu Jetty in Fort Kochi, where there is severe undercurrent. The situation gets worse during high tide. There is ample space to station the Water Metro terminal at Kamalakadavu where the water current is much less, since the Kochi Corporation’s jetty is not being used, while the adjacent tourist jetty is underutilised,” he said.

Responding to this, KMRL sources said that safety concerns were termed as baseless by experts from IIT-Madras, who had conducted a technical study.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 6:25:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/chinese-nets-likely-to-get-a-facelift-soon/article30153313.ece

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