Kochi

Row over incipient projects

While parties are obsessed with the yet-to-be constructed municipal town hall, development of basic facilities in Kothamangalam like the bus stand has come to a standstill.—Photo: H. Vibhu

While parties are obsessed with the yet-to-be constructed municipal town hall, development of basic facilities in Kothamangalam like the bus stand has come to a standstill.—Photo: H. Vibhu  

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UDF, LDF lock horns over construction of town hall in Kothamangalam

: Ironically, both the Right and Left coalitions fighting for power in this sprawling municipality—located in the corridor linking Ernakulam with tourist draws like Bhoothathankettu dam, Thattekkad bird sanctuary and Munnar further uphill—have centred their campaigns on the still-to-be-constructed municipal town hall, which was mooted at the instance of the LDF as far back as 1998.

The municipality acquired close to two acres of land for the purpose. And the State irrigation department sanctioned Rs 2.1 crore when the LDF, dismayed by the change in work plan, waylaid the project alleging the altered layout of the campus would lead to large-scale corruption.

The estimated cost of the project on completion is Rs 6.8 crore.

The bone of contention is this: the LDF wants the town hall to be built on land abutting the Kurur thodu (canal) with a bridge across it. The UDF, on the other hand, proposed to re-route the canal by levelling it on one side. The initial grant of Rs 2.1 crore was for land-filling and changing the course of the canal.

“Once the canal is straightened, the town hall campus would get more space. We have received environmental clearance also,” says T.U. Kuruvilla, MLA. The LDF, however, refuses to buy that argument, maintaining that spending Rs 2.1 crore just for reclaiming the canal would cause corruption besides being environmentally unsustainable.

Besides the town hall impasse, issues like limping solid waste management project, needlessly delayed international stadium project at Chelad and closure of the only authorised slaughter house have come to the fore as campaigning is progressing.

The LDF, in opposition in the outgoing council, rues the slow progress of the four-lane highway to Kakkanad, but the UDF highlights the link roads it constructed. Debate is under way on the progress of work of the Taluk hospital as well.

If the Left romped home piggybacking on the DIC (K) in 2005, the coalition suffered a severe jolt in 2010 when it managed to only win eight of the 31 seats. But rebel menace in the UDF—even the present welfare standing committee chairperson is a rebel candidate this time—is fuelling LDF hopes.

The BJP doesn’t have a reckonable presence in the municipality and has not fielded candidates in all divisions.

The severely under-utilised potential of the municipality to reap a fortune if linked to nearby tourist locales has also come up for discussion. Local development apart, the UDF pins its hopes on the State government’s track record. The LDF feels that anti-incumbency besides beef, stray dog issues and rising communalism will influence the poll outcome.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2020 6:47:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/row-over-incipient-projects/article7816686.ece

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