Prime waterfront space in ruins

The unused space atop the Ernakulam Boat Jetty, which offers a panoramic view of the Marine Drive waterfront.   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

The vast space atop the Ernakulam Boat Jetty building that provides an unmatched view of the Marine Drive waterfront and ships sailing into the harbour is in ruins and has become a haven for miscreants owing to shoddy upkeep and slack coordination among different government departments which have stakes in the premises.

The building, which was designed like an air traffic control tower and was constructed two decades ago by the Kerala Tourism, occupies prime space along the Marine Drive waterfront. Apart from multiple boat jetties and offices of the State Water Transport Department (SWTD), it also houses the regional office of Kerala Tourism. Making matters worse, over half-a-dozen abandoned ferries of the SWTD occupy substantial space, making them eyesores on the otherwise pristine waterfront.

The abysmal upkeep of the space atop the building and the alleged differences of opinion among Kerala Tourism, Revenue Department, and the Kochi Corporation over the handing over of the title deed to the tourism agency and allocation of building number, have resulted in the Kerala Tourism not able to rent out the vast prime space for eateries and other commercial purposes. On its part, the tourism agency has not bothered to engage staff to ensure cleanliness at the space which gets ample natural breeze and sunlight.

A gory welcome

Dead pigeons, bird droppings, and cobweb-infested corridors stare at visitors. Over the years, all this has made it a den for illicit activities, prompting the closure of either end of the vast space on the building’s second floor, which was once an extension of the Marine Drive walkway.

“The space fell into disuse years ago after the Kochi Corporation objected to it being rented out to a cafeteria. We hope to tidy the space and cover it with nets to prevent entry of pigeons and other birds. Much more can be done if the Revenue Department hands over possession of the land that houses the boat jetty complex to us,” said sources in the Kerala Tourism. “People will then be able to use it as an elevated walkway as well. This was recently taken up with Cochin Smart Mission Limited (CSML), which is engaged in renovating the Marine Drive walkway. We have also sought the views of Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) on the matter, since a pair of Water Metro terminals have been envisaged nearby. CSML could further install a couple of CCTVs to ward off criminal elements,” they said.

The Ernakulam District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) manages a pay-and-park area and a Take a Break eatery, which was recently renovated, in front of the boat jetty complex. Sources in CSML said the present ambit of their works ends where the walkway ends near Children’s Park, although the agency is keen to incorporate walkways on either side in its future plans.

‘Allot building number’

The district administration and the Kochi Corporation must come together and allot a building number to the boat jetty complex, if need be, by regularising the structure, said architect S. Gopakumar, who designed the building.

“Stakeholders must take a cue from foreign countries which go the extra mile in tapping the potential of waterfront stretches. Eateries that sell seafood and other dishes will bring in revenue while also ensuring cleanliness of the premises.

“Care had been taken in the design to allot space for a memorial for writer Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, who once owned a book shop nearby. This too is a non-starter due to procedural issues,” said Mr. Gopakumar, who is also president of Better Kochi Response Group, an NGO.

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 8:02:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/prime-waterfront-space-in-ruins/article34226819.ece

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