For Valanthakad islanders, a bridge remains a distant dream

A view of the unfinished bridge to Valanthakkad island on Saturday.

A view of the unfinished bridge to Valanthakkad island on Saturday.

The pier caps staring skyward seem to mock the nearly 50 Scheduled Caste families of the ecologically sensitive Valanthakad island, as their decades-old demand for a bridge remains far from being fulfilled.

Work on the 165-metre bridge, which would have given the islanders easy access to the neighbouring Maradu municipality, has been suspended. The construction work, estimated to cost ₹5.50 crore, was launched with much fanfare on November 1, 2019. The bridge was supposed to be commissioned within 18 months, a deadline that the executing agency, Kerala Electrical and Allied Engineering Company Limited (KEL), has failed to comply with.

“To begin with, KEL is unfit for executing such a project. They had promised to resume the work within two months at a meeting held on December 3. But having noticed no progress whatsoever, I have moved the government to terminate their contract and re-tender the work at their risk and cost as they are the ones at fault,” said K. Babu, Thripunithura MLA.

KEL authorities could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.

Maradu municipal chairman Antony Ashanparambil said pending dues to the sub contractor seemed to have halted the work. “Dues were reportedly around ₹1 crore when I had checked around five months back,” he said.

Jagathampi Krishna, a resident of Valanthakad, had even written to the Prime Minister about the alleged apathy of successive governments.

He said the bridge remained a mere promise during elections, only to be forgotten thereafter citing either dearth of funds or the limited population. “Shortly after I received a favourable response from the Prime Minister, then Left Democratic Front government spurred into action, bragging that it would complete the bridge without any aid from the Centre,” he said.

In the 1990s, there was a proposal for a bund instead of a bridge, which was vehemently opposed by the residents. Hitting the protest path is not new to the residents, and they may be forced to resort to it, going by the slow pace of construction work.

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Printable version | May 27, 2022 11:56:49 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/for-valanthakad-islanders-a-bridge-remains-a-distant-dream/article38311750.ece