KOCHI: Kerala's commercial capital has always reared to grow beyond its boundaries, though the support it has received has never been promising. With another state budget lined up, Express talks to various stakeholders on what Kochi hopes to receive this year while also exploring the status of past promises.
Despite being the hub of national and international projects, Kochi's infrastructure development has always been caught in red-tape and land acquisition struggles. Experts say there is a need to decongest city roads by giving a thrust to alternative transporation including waterways and trains. This will also help in reducing the pollution level.
"Instead of announcing big-ticket infrastructure projects, the government should prioritise on maintaining quality standards of existing city roads. The funds should be allocated for pedestrianisation, street furniture and junction improvement. In addition, parallel roads like Thammanam-Pullepady Road, Chilavannur Bund Road and Goshree Chathiyath Road should be developed. More investment should be pooled on water transport. Land acquisition for doubling of rail lines between Ettumanoor and Chingavanam should also be considered," said D Dhanuraj, Chairman, Centre for Public Policy and Research.
Though the modernisation of the KSRTC bus stand was announced in the previous budget, many raise questions on its viability when the expansion of the Vytila Mobility Hub is the future. "As we have a core hub, we should focus on developing transit terminals to decentralise the bus transport system. Financial assistance for converting private buses to CNG or LNG format will also help the city in the long run. Fund allocation for Kerala Metropolitan Transport Authority (KMTA) will also be a path-breaker for Kochi," he said.
The Vypeen-Munambam beach corridor, boat race at Marine Drive among others are some of the projects which need a boost this year.
"Vypeen-Munambam beach corridor is being delayed due to land acquisition issues. We have been seeking permission from Kochi Port Trust to use their land for the project. Construction constraints regarding CRZ regulations is also a challenge. Though the boat race was scheduled to commence last year, it was delayed due to the floods. We are expecting government support for the project in the coming months. In addition, we are aiming to complete the Chinese fishing net development project soon," K P Nandakumar, Joint Director, Tourism Department.
With a slew of disasters including Cyclone Ockhi and the floods playing havoc on their lives, the fisheries sector is keeping their fingers crossed that the government will give them their due this year. The previous budget had focused on the Rs 300-crore rehabilitation and remodelling of the coastal belt in the district which includes the Chellanam-Kannamali stretch.
"We have submitted proposals for inland aquaculture which include open water farming, cage farming and brackish water farming. Freshwater fish farming will be implemented in Angamali, Mulanthuruthy and Aluva by utilising unused ponds in the region. Joint ventures with Kudumbashree by converting private ponds will also be implemented," said Mahesh Kumar, deputy director of Fisheries, Ernakulam.
The business sector, which also faced one of the worst times this year, is burdened owing to the proposal to levy 1% cess on Goods and Service Tax (GST) in the state. Experts hope a special package will be announced to help small scale businessmen.
"The cess will be an additional burden to the customers and lead to inflation across the state. Either the state should do away the proposal or implement it only in the B2C sector," said V A Yousuf president,
Kerala Merchants' Chamber of Commerce. N M Sharafudeen, vice chairman, Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry also echoed a similar sentiment.
"Despite contributing 42% to the Kerala economy, many Kochi merchants are struggling to meet both ends post-floods. A package focusing on grassroots level merchants should also be implemented with immediate effect,"he said.