National Waterway III to be opened today

John L. Paul

It has the potential to ease congestion on city roads

KOCHI: Regular plying of boats through the Kollam-Kottappuram National Waterway III will pave the way for development of small navigable canals and other water bodies crisscrossing the State.

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan will throw open the waterway on Tuesday, at a function at its Maradu terminal.

To divert a share of goods and passenger traffic to the waterway, agencies in the field are toying with the idea of linking the Cochin International Airport and the Kochi port, which are 17.2-km apart. This will be a first of its kind endeavour in the country.

A few water bodies on the route will have to be widened and dredged for the project to materialise. Another proposal is to connect navigable canals in Kochi with the waterway. Central assistance has been sought for the project.

Traffic will, in all likelihood, come to a halt in Kochi when hundreds of container-laden lorries take to the city roads and highways when the Vallarpadam container transhipment terminal becomes functional.

Presuming that a container will be loaded and another one unloaded every minute, 2,880 lorries will pass through Kochi’s highways daily, throttling traffic, says B.R. Menon, adviser to the State government for development of inland waterways and ports and Chairman of the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC). “Thought has to be given to transport the containers in vessels passing through the National Waterway III,” he said.

He said that funds from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission were likely to make 11 canals in Kochi navigable. The National Transportation Planning and Research Centre was preparing a detailed project report for this.

Water bodies in the city, such as the Kochi, Perandoor and Thevara canals, were being used for navigation till some decades ago. One can reach here from Thripunithura to Kochi in around 20 minutes through the waterways, when the road route takes anywhere up to 90 minutes during peak hours.

Though waterways are the cheapest, safest and most eco-friendly mode of transport, many of the navigable canals in Kochi are now being used to dump waste from households, shops and markets. Many houses and businesses have encroached on these canals, narrowing them. Bridges such as the one at Kaloor are low-level, hampering the safe passage of boats. This calls for concerted efforts by agencies such as the Inland Waterways Authority of India, the KSINC and the Irrigation and Fisheries departments.

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