Inland waterways get a boost

IN PLACID WATERS: A boat in the backwaters of Kochi.  

Aimed at enhancing patronage of the under-utilised Kollam-Kottapuram National Waterway III (NW III), Kerala Tourism has stated its willingness to encourage boats to ferry tourists along the stretch.

Currently, boats ferry guests on short tours through the State's inland waterways, mainly in Ernakulam and also Alappuzha and Kumarakom (where houseboats dominate).

Catering to the demand from travellers interested in taking a boat ride along the scenic inland waterway, the State Water Transport Department had over a month ago re-introduced a luxury boat service operating between Kollam and Alappuzha.

Regular services

“This is a very attractive proposition since people no longer want to travel along ill-maintained, polluted, accident-prone and congested roads. Tour operators have to be roped in to begin regular services,” said M. Shivsankar, Tourism Director.

“We are willing to coordinate with the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) so that the tourist vessels would be able to land on the terminals built alongside the NW III,” he said.

But the department has some reservations in operating the boats alongside cargo vessels. A few alterations would make the boat terminals (which too are under-utilised) adaptable to passenger traffic as well.

A senior IWAI official said that though aimed primarily at transporting cargo, both passenger and cargo vessels can use the waterway, “just like passenger and goods trains ply through the same set of rails.”

There is no risk in the two types of vessels colliding on the waterway, which is wide enough for two big cargo vessels to cross each other.

“We do not have any objections to the proposal,” he said and added that the agency is yet to get a specific offer from Kerala Tourism.

The Authority would have to add landing/berthing infrastructure in their terminals for passengers.

Speaking at a workshop organised in the city over a month ago, the IWAI Chairman S. P. Gaur had called upon the State Government to remove bottlenecks like fishing nets along NW III and promote cargo/passenger movement so that all navigable parts of the waterway are utilized better.

He had also suggested the development of faster boats with lesser height so that they can steer through low-lying bridges and passengers can reach their destination faster.

John L. Paul