Canal rejuvenation key to waterlogging-free Kochi

The cost of the canal rejuvenation project, estimated at Rs 1,528 crore in 2019, has escalated to Rs 3,873 crore in 2023.
With the city dwellers turning the Perandoor canal into a dumpyard, it has become a health hazard | file pic
With the city dwellers turning the Perandoor canal into a dumpyard, it has become a health hazard | file picFile Photo

KOCHI: Why does Kochi get flooded after a heavy spell of rain? The simple answer would point to rapid urbanisation and a lack of pre-monsoon cleaning of drains and canals. However, despite all these proactive measures in the IT Hub of Infopark, where officials ensured drains and canals were cleaned before the onset of monsoon, the area got flooded after last week’s downpour.

The reason, according to officials, is the shrinking of the canals and drains due to encroachment. Beyond cleaning, these canals need reconstruction, they pointed out. “The city’s drains and canals have been shrinking over the years, reducing their capacity to handle rainwater. Additionally, garbage accumulation in the drains has impeded water flow further,” said an official with the irrigation department.

The cost of the canal rejuvenation project, estimated at Rs 1,528 crore in 2019, has escalated to Rs 3,873 crore in 2023. Expected to free Kochi of waterlogging, the Integrated Urban Regeneration and Water Transport System (IURWTS) – to be implemented by the Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) – has been a non-starter for over five years.

IURWTS envisages the acquisition of 42 hectares of private land for widening six canals spread over 34.75km, to make them navigable. They are Edappally canal (11.15 km), Chilavanoor (11.23 km), Thevara (1.2 km), Perandoor (9.84 km), Market (0.66 km) and Konthuruthy (0.67 km).

KMRL officials said the district administration’s failure to hand over the land has led to the delay.

“The fate of the project lies with the district administration’s expeditious action for the timely completion of land acquisition. The land acquisition proposal for the development of Edapally canal was approved by the government, and revenue sanction accorded, in February 2021. However, we are unable to proceed with the development activities as not a single parcel of land has been handed over to KMRL for construction work,” an official said. 

At the same time, Kochi Mayor M Anilkumar said the delay is from KMRL’s end. “KMRL has not started any work on the 1-km Market canal, which requires zero land acquisition. The project is funded by the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB). The revenue department cannot acquire the entire land and hand it over to KMRL. It has to begin the work in a phased manner,” Anilkumar said.

The Kerala government’s financial crisis too is a huge factor. “Given the fund crunch, not many are participating in the tender, which is also affecting the work. The government hasn’t yet taken a call on how to implement the project and how it will be funded,” said a source associated with the project.

Meanwhile, KMRL said that over 3km of ‘poramboke’ land near the Edappally canal has been received. “The canals will be widened to a minimum width of 16.50m, and it is proposed to construct a walkway of a minimum width of 2m on either side to make the canal front active and to prevent it from further encroachment,” a KMRL official said.

Despite multiple attempts, District Collector N S K Umesh was unavailable for comment.

6 canals, 42 hectares

  • The Integrated Urban Regeneration and Water Transport System (IURWTS) envisages to acquire 42 hectares of private land for widening six canals in the city

  • The canals are Edappally (11.15 km), Chilavanoor (11.23 km), Thevara (1.2 km), Perandoor (9.84 km), Market (0.66 km) and Konthuruthy (0.67 km)

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