Concerns over Mattancherry losing its commercial charm

A worker ferrying cargo in a push cart in Mattanchery.   | Photo Credit: THULASI KAKKAT

With much of the commercial activity in the famed Bazaar Road and adjacent streets in Mattancherry shifting to mainland Ernakulam, the fear is rife that the historic trading hub from where spices and other commodities were exported to far-off lands would go the Alappuzha way, thanks to extremely narrow roads and what is being termed as high loading and unloading charges.

The narrow and bottlenecked roads of the market hampered the movement of lorries, while headload workers charge very high rates, said Mattancherry-based RTI activist Govindan Namboodiri K.

“The disruption in ferry service from the mainland to the region during the past five years further affected the prospects of the market, since innumerable people from Ernakulam banked on the ferry (with fare as low as ₹3) to reach the wholesale trading hub to purchase commodities at economical rates. The shallow Mattancherry boat jetty must be urgently dredged so that ferry services resume,” he added.

Board member of Mattancherry-based Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) Madhusudan Gupta attributed the diminishing trading activity in the area to no new trade coming in and many of the existing shops and massive warehouses being converted into outlets selling antiques. “There was little emphasis on retail trading, while no effort was made to retain Mattancherry as a lively commercial hub.”

He cited this and “militant labour” as reasons for his family, which was into wholesale spice trade in Mattancherry for half a century, shifting base to the mainland and diversifying into other sectors. “The government and other stakeholders must take the lead in conserving the heritage warehouses which once stored coir, foodgrains and spices, and convert them for alternative use. There is need to move from labour-intensive to other commercial activities,” he said.

Antiques trader and former ICCI president Sunny L. Malayil too attributed notoriously narrow roads for traders shifting to greener pastures. “Mattancherry remained much the same although shifting of cargo changed from rice barges and dhows, which banked on waterways, to lorries and ships. High loading and unloading charges too drove traders away from the locale,” he said.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 7:24:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/concerns-over-mattancherry-losing-its-commercial-charm/article36578686.ece

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