Faced with inordinate delay in commencing the construction of the Kochi Water Metro’s key terminal at Mattancherry and 14 other locations in the Greater Kochi area, office-bearers of the Mattancherry Water Metro Action Council met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday and submitted a memorandum seeking speedy construction of the terminals.
Ferry commuters from Mattancherry had all along been resting hope on the Water Metro terminal, since ferries of the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) stopped calling at the adjacent SWTD terminal over five years ago, citing inadequate depth of the backwaters.
Enraged at the delay in SWTD ferries resuming services and the inordinate delay in re-tendering the contract to construct the Water Metro terminal, commuters and tourists who had to alight from ferries at Fort Kochi and then reach Mattancherry and traders had alleged that they were being given a step-motherly treatment by the State government and other agencies, despite water transport being the preferred mode of commute from the mainland. This was because ferries provided much faster and economical commute to the heritage tourism locale.
Action council secretary Arafat Nazar spoke of how the office-bearers apprised the Chief Minister of the much-needed socio-economic boost that Water Metro ferries would provide to Mattancherry. The locale is now devoid of water transport connectivity, although it was from there that ferries began operating in an organised manner in the State. The Water Metro terminal that ought to have been commissioned in 2020 and the restoration of SWTD ferry services held key to invigorating tourism, spices and allied trade in the area. Besides, ferries were the easiest mode to reach Vypeen and Fort Kochi, he said.
Official sources said that Kochi Water Metro Limited (KWML) had been awaiting clearance from German lending agency KfW during the past few months to go ahead with the third retender of the work on the Mattancherry Water Metro terminal. “The terminal would be unlike the rest of the terminals since a portion of it would be on the waterbody. This makes piling and allied works a little tricky. A few flaws in the original design have been rectified, and we are awaiting KfW’s clearance to commence the tender process for the terminal and 14 others.” The KWML team has taken up such issues with KfW personnel who are now on a visit to Kochi, it is learnt.
“We are hopeful of getting KfW sanction for the tender process in a week. Once the work is awarded, we are hopeful of completing Mattancherry and other terminals in the [tender] package in six months since they would be hybrid structures — a mix of pre-fabricated and concrete construction. Despite the delay, work has begun to construct floating pontoons from which commuters would board the ferries. Parking lots will be readied near Water Metro terminals wherever possible, while a fleet of 20 e-buses and 100 e-autos will provide last-mile connectivity, especially to the 10 isles that the ferries would connect,” KWML sources said.