If the civic authorities and governmental departments work in a more coordinated, sensitive and creative fashion, Fort Kochi can be developed into a major tourist destination, say experts. Paulose Mathew, president, Kerala Chapter of Travel Agents Federation, said, "Fort Kochi is a classic case that testifies how a major heritage site is being systematically neglected by the civic authorities.”
“Fort Kochi is a melting pot. Tourist operations and any development work should be launched in such a way that they do not affect the traditional geography of the terrain and the existing structures should be properly maintained. The tourists who visit heritage sites are very particular about cleanliness. The beach in Fort Kochi stinks. Coordinated efforts of departments such as tourism, police, health and revenue can create wonders,” he said.
V J Hycinth, former Corporation councillor, pointed out that the civic body has consistently failed in developing the tourism potential of the historic city. “The gradual disappearance of Chinese fishing nets is an example,” he said. Traditional fish workers using Chinese fishing nets face a severe livelihood crisis and are reportedly leaving the job.
Raju P Nair, former general secretary, Tour Operators Association, said that most of the hotels in the city are expensive. “Providing medium budget accommodation is a strategic step. Properly monitored homestays can fill the gap,” he said.
The worst problems faced by Fort Kochiites are drinking water shortage and lack of proper, scientifically-managed waste management. Most of the projects initiated by the government departments and local bodies allegedly fail to address the perennial crisis. “Many medical reports have established that water-borne diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and typhoid are a major threat to people which can lead to a crisis,” said K M Ashraff, a public health activist and leader of Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishath which conducts health surveys.
“With age-old pipes corroding and leaking, sewage water too flows into them. Unscientific waste management is another issue which allows mosquitoes to breed,” he said.
It was pointed out that water woes can be addressed if the two water tanks in Fort Kochi start functioning. “Large sums were spent on the huge tanks near Parade Ground and Cochin College. But the authorities have failed to create a proper pumping mechanism,” said a resident.
Dominic Presentation MLA said that he has personally initiated several steps to address the water crisis. “But the inherent procedural delay is a major hurdle. The Water Authority should get mandatory permission from the finance board to implement projects above `50 lakh resulting in delay,” said the MLA. T K Ashraff, Health Standing Committee chairman, Kochi Corporation, said the Corporation is serious about drinking water supply and waste management.
“Two loads of waste are carried to the Brahmapuram plant daily. Besides the Corporation cleaning staff, we have also employed 25 workers on contract basis in association with the Heritage Conservation Committee. A couple of drinking water projects will be executed at the earliest,” he said.