THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As part of the development of 633km West Coast Canal — the main arterial waterway in the state which traverses through 11 districts in the state — Kovalam, the starting point, would be developed into a transit-based economic corridor. Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) has already sanctioned Rs 150 crore for the project, which is being jointly implemented by the Coastal Shipping and Inland Navigation Department and Kerala Waterways Infrastructure Limited (KWIL) — a special purpose vehicle (SPV) of Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) and the state government.
An official of KWIL said the state government is planning to come up with a comprehensive master plan to develop transit-oriented economic corridors along the canal and Kovalam is one major transit point with huge possibilities. “We have divided the West Coast Waterway into 13 reaches and have invited tenders for data collection in these reaches to develop economic corridors with the help of architects and economists. We will be studying the economic possibilities of goods movement, water metro, passenger transport and tourism activities. The plan is to come up with an initial master plan within four months,” said an official of KWIL. The master plan will focus on additional infrastructure, revenue generation possibilities etc.
11(1a) notification soon
According to officials, land acquisition procedures are in the final phase at Kovalam and Panathura as part of the development of the 16.4km Parvathy Puthanar, which would be integrated with the West Coast Canal. KIIFB has sanctioned Rs 247.2 crore for the rehabilitation of around 1,275 families residing on the banks of the Kovalam-Varkala waterway. This is the first time land acquisition is being initiated as part of the project. “Land acquisition 11(1) notification would be issued this week for Kovalam and Panathura. The procedures have been ongoing for the past 1.5 years and finally it’s happening. The plan is to construct a transit terminal-cum-tourist facilitation centre with ample parking space at Kovalam,” said the official.
A state-of-the-art transit terminal with world-class facilities would be set up at Kovalam to facilitate tourism and water transport activities. “There would be parking spaces, boat jetties and amenities for tourism and cruise operations. Private operators would be roped in for canal cruise services and attractive cruise tour packages. Being the starting point of the canal, Kovalam would turn into a major economic corridor buzzing with tourist activities,” said an official associated with the project.
At Panathura, a portion of the Parvathy Puthanar has been destroyed owing to sea erosion. “Around 1.5 acres of land would be acquired for reinstating 100 metres in length of the canal which has been destroyed,” said the official.
No takers for homes under LIFE Mission
According to officials, the majority of encroachments falls in the 16.4km Parvathy Puthanar stretching from Akkulam to Kovalam. According to officials, there are around 1,500 illegal constructions including 803 houses along the Parvathy Puthanar which needs to be knocked down to facilitate the project. The plan is to complete the project by March 2025.
The state government is planning to rehabilitate the families that would be displaced to facilitate the development of the canal under the ‘Punargeham’ scheme of the Fisheries Department or LIFE Mission. According to officials, there are no takers for the LIFE Mission scheme. “Ninety-five per cent of the beneficiaries have opted for the Purargeham scheme which offers Rs 10 lakh to each beneficiary for buying land and home construction,” said the official.
The development of the West Coast Canal is expected to give a major boost to backwater tourism and aid smooth movement of cargo. “Fisheries department, the agency rolling out the Punargeham scheme, has completed the preliminary survey which aims at screening the eligibility of the beneficiaries. People who have benefitted from other government housing schemes earlier will not be eligible for the rehabilitation project,” said the official. As part of the project, the state government has come up with rental scheme for the affected families.
“We have offered Rs 5,000 as rent for a period of six months for families who are ready to immediately move from the banks of the canals. In addition, the government has decided to give compensation for the constructions which would be demolished. There are big houses and temporary sheds and we would assess the loss and give compensation to the families accordingly,” said an official. According to officials, the number of beneficiaries might go up after the survey. “We have found multiple families living in the same houses and as per our assessment, the number of beneficiaries may go up and some of the beneficiaries who are ineligible would be removed from the list,” said the official.
- D150 cr alloted by KIFFB to develop Kovalam
- 1,275 families riside on the banks of Kovalam-Varkala waterway
- A247.2 cr alloed by KIFFB for rehabilitation efforts
Boost to tourism, more jobs
The West Coast Canal, when commissioned, is expected to boost livelihood opportunities. According to officials, more boat manufacturing and maintenance units would come up in the state and there would be a boom in cruise operations. “Long-term economic corridors would come up as part of the project. Water metro has scope in many places and in Thiruvananthapuram if a water metro is introduced from Kadinamkulam to Kovalam. People can avoid the heavy traffic on the National Highway. Kazhakoottam is the IT hub and there is heavy traffic on the stretch and Parvathy Puthanar canal passes parallel to the NH and water metro would hence offer a hassle-free travel,” the official added.