The Rs. 819-crore Water Metro project proposed in the Greater Kochi area has achieved a milestone, with an expert panel of the Ministry of Environment clearing its terms of reference.
“We submitted an application to the Union Ministry a few weeks ago. The clearing of terms of reference means we can expedite the project,” said Elias George, MD, Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL).
A total of 78 modern ferries will link the city with islands in the neighbourhood in the project that will be realised by 2021.
“Though specifications have not been finalised, each ferry will most likely have an air-conditioned space (where fare will be higher) and non-AC area. The general consultant appointed by us is in the process of readying specifications and procurement documents for inviting global tenders for the ferries,” he said.
“The first lot of vessels are expected in 17 months from the date of placing orders - i.e., early 2019. We want the best such ferries in the world which are faster, comfortable, and fuel efficient than the existing ones,” Mr. George said.
As per the KMRL estimate, the Water Metro is expected to have a daily ridership of 40,000 by 2019, 54,000 by 2025 and 86,000 by 2035.
Norms for assessment
The project was discussed during the latest meeting of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) for infrastructure projects, held in the last week of July.
Terms of references are guidelines for conducting environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies of projects, based on which the Union Environment Ministry grants or rejects clearances for projects.
The EAC further recommended a study on the “impact of dredging and dumping on marine ecology” and a management plan by any institute specialising in marine ecology.
It also sought a study on the impact of dredging on the shore line, how it affects marine life, aquatic birds, details of waste water management, and an environmental monitoring plan.
Reacting to this, Mr. George said that these are standard processes and assured that the KMRL will conduct the study.
“The Centre had insisted that the Water Metro project be part and parcel of the integrated transport system mooted for Greater Kochi area.
“Ferries operate on almost all the 16 routes identified by the KMRL,” he said.