KERALA

Global investors' meet for Vizhinjam project planned

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Dec. 7. The Minister for Ports, M. V. Raghavan, announced here today that the Government was planning a global investors' summit for the Vizhinjam international container transhipment terminal project.

Inaugurating a convention of elected representatives to discuss the development of the capital region, he said the summit was aimed at highlighting the technical feasibility of the project. It is expected to be held some time in January, he added.

Urging the Central Government to include Vizhinjam in the Sagarmala scheme for development of small ports, Mr. Raghavan said the State was seeking an assistance of Rs. 1,000 crores for improving basic infrastructure at Vizhinjam. ``If the project is to take off, potential investors have to be convinced of the feasibility.''

Mr. Raghavan said the Union Minister of Shipping, Shatrughan Sinha, was expected to make a visit to the project site soon. Expressions of interest will be invited this month, he added.

The Minister said the 25- metre depth of the harbour and the proximity of the international shipping lane were natural advantages for the Vizhinjam project. He revealed that the invitation of tenders had been delayed to avoid a clash with the Vallarpadam project.

``The Kochi lobby has to realise that if the Vizhinjam project is dropped in favour of Vallarpadam, it might prompt the Tamil Nadu Government to push for a major port at Kolachel which could emerge as a greater threat''. Mr. Raghavan urged the MPs from Kerala to join hands to lobby for the Vizhinjam port.

Mr. Raghavan stressed the need to expedite the land acquisition for development of the international airport at Thiruvananthapuram.

The chairman of the Capital Area Development Council, M. Vijayakumar, presided over the convention. MPs, MLAs, heads of local bodies, councillors and panchayat members from Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam and leaders of various political leaders participated in the meeting. Several of the speakers highlighted the need to set aside political differences and wok for the development of the capital region.

The convention adopted a list of projects aimed at the development of the two districts. A delegation will be sent to New Delhi during the current Parliament session to meet the Prime Minister and Union Ministers for follow up action on the projects. A committee of people's representatives with Varkala Radhakrishnan, MP, as general convener has been constituted for the purpose.

The list of projects approved by the convention includes the extension of the proposed Sabari rail line to Thiruvananthapuram via Erumeli, Pathanamthitta, Punalur and Nedumangad and conversion of the Kollam- Virudunagar line to broad gauge. It proposed the introduction of Electric Multiple Units (EMU) on the electrified sections of the Thiruvananthapuram- Ernakulam rail route and connection bus services from all railway stations.

Other major railway proposals include the extension of long- distance trains from Ernakulam, a new railway zonal office at Thiruvananthapuram and construction of a terminal at Kochuveli.

The convention called for introducing refuelling facility for aircraft at the Thiruvananthapuram airport. It urged the State Government to slash the tax on aviation fuel.

In the infrastructure sector, the meeting proposed extension of the National Waterway from Kollam to Vizhinjam and revival of the Kollam bypass project. It called on the State Government and elected representatives to lobby with the Union Roads Ministry for the construction of a new road from Thiruvananthapuram to Thirunelveli via Kattakada.

In the tourism sector, the convention highlighted the need for declaring the capital as a heritage city. It wanted an integrated project for lake tourism covering Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam.

The meeting demanded the setting up of an IIT, an Ayurveda University and an All India Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital. It also called for starting the construction of a Habitat Centre sanctioned by the Centre.

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