10 years on, waterway labours on

Only less than 1% of the cargo ferried through Kerala relies on NW III

The 205-km-long Kollam-Kottapuram (in Thrissur) National Waterway III remains out of bounds for barges capable of carrying over 250-tonne freight, 10 years after it was inaugurated by the then Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan.

The NW III was envisaged for vessels capable of carrying bulk cargo weighing 500 tonnes and more. But shallow stretches and a couple of low-lying bridges have acted as hindrances to the plan.

Slush disposal

The bridges are likely to be rebuilt in two years. However, no solution is in sight for the hassles associated with disposal of slush and mud dredged out from the waterway. Two dredgers of the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) and their crew have been idling for the past six months. The Revenue Department must identify land for the slush disposal, said sources in the agency.

The agency has so far spent ₹250 crore in two decades to dredge NW III, to reinforce banks and to install equipment for night navigation. Currently, only less than 1% of the total cargo ferried through Kerala relies on NW III, despite the State government giving a subsidy of ₹1 per tonne per km journey to barge operators.

Other bottlenecks

On the efforts being made to clear bottlenecks like low-lying bridges, Director of IWAI Neelakandan Unni said the Irrigation Department has been entrusted with the task of reconstructing a navigation lock at Thrikkunapuzha, for ₹38 crore.

“The IWAI and the KMML have got together to reconstruct a foot overbridge near Chavara at ₹5.50 crore. The work has been entrusted to Harbour Engineering Department. The two works will be over in two years,” Mr. Unni said.

The waterway and terminals en route will remain underutilised until the government issues an order curbing unscrupulous practices such as Nokkukooli (money demanded by union activists though they do not put in any work), IWAI officials said.

Inaugurating the waterway in 2007, Mr. Achuthanandan had said the Kovalam-Neeleswaram waterway would be operational by 2009.

Repeated announcements by LDF and UDF-led governments – that development of the waterways was a top priority since goods and people could be transported at economical rates – have remained on paper.

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 3:10:19 PM |

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