KOCHI: So near, yet so far
“The land acquisition process for the Alappuzha bypass started when I was a student of S D College during 1987-88. I think the proceedings started much earlier,” says Sridevi Panicker, a homemaker. But work on the Rs 348.43-crore project stretching 6.8 km from Kommadi to Kalarkode was inaugurated only on April 10, 2015! If that does not illustrate the protracted nature of road development in the state, perhaps nothing ever will. The Public Works Department says the Alappuzha bypass - along with the 13.141 km, Rs 168 crore Kollam bypass proposed in 1972 - will be completed by May 2018. Major centres in the state awaiting relief from the choking deluge of vehicles have a fairly similar story to tell. The development of the first reach of the 18 km
Thalassery-Mahe bypass is caught up in disputes over the compensation package. Though the alignment for the bypass was finalised in 1987, and the acquisition process began in 1992, the proposal remains a non-starter. In Kottayam, it would have been a big relief if two projects worth Rs 78.19 crore - the Kottayam corridor, a major bypass connecting K K Road and M C Road, and the first phase of the project connecting MC Road to Kottayam-Kumarakom Road at Illikkal started in 2013 -were to be realised. Work on the Rs 37.5 crore, 2.3 long Tiruvalla bypass from Mazhuvangaduchira to Ramanchira, started in 2014, was disrupted due to problems with alignment at Ramanchira near M C road.
“We were afraid to go out at night as the area was surrounded by bushes. With little road connectivity, very few vehicles came this way. Also, people from other areas used to laugh at us as the place was once famous for treating mental illness,” said 49-year-old Rajesh, recalling olddays at his native land - Kakkanad. But things started changing in the late ‘90s with the Ernakulam district headquarters taking shape at Kakkanad and with highrises, roads, IT parks and other infrastructure projects popping up. Adding glamour, Kochi Metro is to be extended to Kakkanad. The Union Government including Kochi under its Smart Cities Mission gives further impetus to development.
But the sad reality is, even after 15 years, the state’s commercial capital has not witnessed any major road construction connecting the city to the IT hub. The last major road completed in Kochi was the Kaloor-Kadavanthra stretch, owned by the GCDA, in 2004. Courtesy: The government’s apathy and the local bodies’ inefficiency in exploring possibilities.Though plenty of proposals and ideas were exchanged between government agencies, people’s representatives, district administration and the local bodies, hardly any solution has come out to ease traffic congestion between the IT hub and the city. If the government does not take up the issue, the Palarivattom-Kakkanad Road - the only road connecting the city with the district headquarters - will witness more bottlenecks.
Express takes a look at some projects remaining half-baked.
Padma Junction-Infopark Corridor
Though the three-decade-old project received an impetus with Finance Minister Thomas Isaac suggesting an allotment of Rs 100 crore to take over the land from the Corporation for the proposed corridor, things are moving at a snail’s pace, with no discussion happening at the government level. Even the Kochi Corporation and the Thrikkakara Municipality are clueless about finding the remaining amount for the project.
It was in the late ‘90s the Padma Junction-Thammanam-Chakkaraparambu-Infopark corridor was proposed as a “commercial corridor” connecting the city centre with Infopark-Smart City area. The proposed 9-km road begins from Padma Junction and goes through Pulleppady to reach Thammanam, from where it intersects NH 66 to reach Chakkaraparambu. It then passes through Navabhagam-Palachuvadu-Thuthiyoor to reach the Seaport-Airport Road before entering the Infopark back gate near Irumpanam. As per the current estimate, the government needs over Rs 500 crore, which cannot be borne by the Kochi Corporation and the Thrikkakara Municipality through which the road passes.
“Had the project been completed 15 years ago, the state government could have saved almost Rs 300 crore for land acquisition alone,” said a retired Deputy Collector, requesting anonymity. “Now, the land prices have gone up two to three times. Only this parallel road between Infopark and the city centre can decongest Kochi. Both the UDF and the LDF Governments are responsible for this huge financial loss.”
The previous government had allotted Rs 25 crore for widening Thammanam-Pulleppady Road, with little impact. Mayor Soumini Jain said the government turned a blind eye to the Corporation’s resolution to hand over the road from Thammanam to Pullepady.
“We have already forwarded the resolution to the government but no favourable decision has come. The Finance Minister had assured to take over the land in a public meeting. We too are awaiting a positive feedback,” the Mayor said, adding the Corporation had spent Rs 30 lakh to resurface the Kathrikadavu-Karanakodam stretch. PWD Minister G Sudhakaran refuted the Corporation’s claim. “Though the Corporation claimed to have submitted the resolution of handing over their road to PWD, we didn’t receive the request. The Finance Minister agreed to consider the issue in a public meeting and the government will seriously look into it,” he said.
Tale of 2 underpasses
The project to construct two underpasses at Eechamukku and Civil Station Junction to end the traffic snarls on the Seaport-Airport Road is awaiting a lease of life. Even though the issue was discussed by Thrikkakara MLA P T Thomas nearly ten months back, no progress has been made. The meeting presided over by District Collector K Mohammed Y Safirulla directed the Roads and Bridges Development Corporation of Kerala Ltd (RBDCK) and PWD to prepare a project. However, not a single report has been tabled by the agencies.
While the PWD was asked to prepare the report for constructing the under passage at the Civil Station Junction, RBDCK was asked to do the same at Eechamukku. “It was true the meeting discussed the construction of two under passages at Civil Station and Eechamukku,” said an officer who attended the meeting. “Both the agencies have been asked to prepare the report leaving provisions for the construction of Kochi Metro in these areas. As the project will ease the traffic congestion at Kakkanad, it received a warm reception. But this has failed to take off as we haven’t received any order from the district administration and from the MLA. How can we start a project without the government’s approval?”
Even the RBDCK officer reiterated the sentiment when Express asked about the delay in starting the project. District Collector K Mohammed Y Safirulla admitted the project is yet to progress. “Only preliminary discussions were held. We will look into it,” he said.
All hype but little headway
As per the earlier estimate, the expected cost for developing the road to 22 metres from Thammanam to Pullepady will come around C263 crore, including the cost of 4.01 hectares of land to be acquired. The cost will be more than C500 crore for acquiring the land from Thammanam to Seaport-Airport Road.
The Thammanam-Pullepady road at present has a width of around 10 metres. If the project turns a reality, the road will be widened up to 22 metres.
The 8 km
road development will improve the east-west connectivity.
Once the corridor from Seaport-Airport Road to M G Road is realised, the traffic congestion along the Kakkanad-M G Road stretch and S A Road will be reduced
Eechamukku and Civil Station underpass
The project was mooted to relieve the traffic at the Seaport-Airport Road. The PWD and RBDCK have been asked to prepare a report on the underpass construction
The major public transport modes in Kochi are city buses, auto rickshaws and ferry boats operated mainly by private operators. A total of about 650 buses are operated on about 160 routes originating from 60 locations scattered all over the city
Kaloor-Kadavanthra Road is the last major road that was built. After the commissioning of the 22-m wide, four-lane road, in 2004, the city has not seen a major road work in the past 15 years