Kochi Marine Drive: Driving tourists away

Though the 2.4km-long walkway at Kochi’s prime tourist spot has been renovated by CSML, basic amenities are still being ignored by authorities. The stretch does not even have a single toilet
People visiting the Marine Drive walkway that was renovated recently,Pics | Arun angela
People visiting the Marine Drive walkway that was renovated recently,Pics | Arun angela

KOCHI: When the most anticipated Marine Drive renovation finally took place last year, Kochiites thought the issues which had been plaguing the area would be resolved. The renovation works including relaying of tiles, new seats, an open gym, landscaping, LED streetlights on the walkway under the project were taken up by Cochin Smart Mission Limited. However, to everyone’s dismay, the basic necessities are still being ignored and ill-maintained by the authorities.

The 2.4km-long Marine Drive walkway was given a facelift under the Rs 7.85-crore project to improve open spaces of Kochi. The picturesque spot which is built facing the backwaters is a popular hangout spot for natives as well as tourists. Other than the boat riding services and the walkway, what does the space offer visitors? Along the stretch lies a GCDA shopping complex, Abad Bay Pride Mall and Pioneer Towers.

However, the GCDA complex has been standing tall with a dirty exterior packed with several gadget repairing, footwear and other shops for years. It is the only source of shopping in the area. The building offers one juice shop and a new restaurant.

Only two floors of the complex are occupied, the rest are more or less in a dilapidated condition. The two escalators inside the complex had stopped working for years. The shopkeepers claim no repair works have been done yet. “The complex as such hasn’t received any maintenance for over five years despite around Rs 4,000 is being charged as maintenance cost. Visitors are also reluctant to enter the shops due to the shabby condition of the building. If GCDA allows us to do the maintenance, all shopkeepers in the area can pitch in and do the renovation on our own,” says P S Mohan, a shopkeeper.

The boat shaped building at the Kettuvallam bridge stands empty
The boat shaped building at the Kettuvallam bridge stands empty

Boating is the only other entertainment for visitors. Waste is discarded mindlessly where passengers board the boats. “The authority had plans to build a shed where the passengers can wait and a railing where they enter. Neither of the two has been executed,” says a boat owner.

The three bridges — Rainbow bridge, Chinese fishing net bridge, and Houseboat bridge — have been a favourite of visitors to take a glimpse of the view afar. “But the pungent smell from the canal below makes it difficult for people to enjoy the view. If properly maintained, small musical events can be held and liven up the atmosphere here. The place has the potential to bring in many recreational facilities,” says Tony Abraham, a student.

No toilet facility
At a place where thousands of visitors come in, it is shocking not to see even one toilet facility. Down the Houseboat bridge, three toilets were renovated a year ago but they have not been opened for the public yet. “This has been a long-standing issue and it is necessary to have at least a couple of pay-and-use toilets along the walkway,” says social activist Ranjit Thampy. The renovation work which Marine Drive saw was after the legal battle led by him in 2019.

“Toilets will be opened soon after we hand over the maintenance works to a contractor. We had sent a proposal for Rs 52 crore for the overall development projects in Kochi to be included in the sgtate budget, but we were allotted only Rs 2 crore. In the annual budget of GCDA which is to be announced on March 30, we have also included the restoration of the complex. Several infrastructure developments and modernisation will be done soon,” says GCDA chairman Chandran Pillai. CSML has handed over the contract to GCDA.

Mumbai native Damodar and his family had high expectations about Kochi Marine Drive. “Marine Drive in Mumbai is way cleaner, have more shops, well maintained and policed as well. Here, the area is not well lit and there is nothing much to do here,” he says.

According to Ranjit Thampy, trees falling are a common affair as well. “The beauty of Marine drive lies in the greenery too. Trees have to be pruned often, as many of them don’t have the strength to hold the branches,” he says. Though CCTV cameras have been placed, they are not functioning, he adds.

Sorry state of affairs

Beside the walkway, boating is the only entertaiment available

Shopping complex of GCDA is in a dilapadated condition. Situation is the same at Abad Bay Pride Mall and Pioneer Towers

The boating area is filled with garbage causing inconvenience to visitors

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The New Indian Express