The Kottayam Port and Container Terminal (KPCT), a Rs 9.56-crore project envisaged to regain the glorious past of its waterways, a link from the high ranges to the Alappuzha Port, which witnessed a thriving business half-a-century ago, is left in the lurch.
An ongoing cold war between the two political fronts is gradually ringing the death bells for the ambitious project.
The first of its kind public- private partnership port is promoted by the South Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry with 51 per cent shares and rest with State government and the Kerala Infrastructural Development Corporation (KINFRA).
Barges up to 300 tonnes could enter the port and it would have reduced the cost of to-and- fro cargo movement by one-tenth in a manner beneficial to Idukki, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta and parts of Kollam districts in addition to Kottayam.
The busy roads between Kottayam and Kochi could breath a little more easy if the containers were kept off.
Thus the KPCT was born after a foundation stone was laid in November, 2006.
The country’s first port and inland container depot to utilise inland waterways with Customs notified area for exports and imports was inaugurated on August 17, 2009.
The promoters had claimed that at least 6,000 containers would be diverted through the waterway each year once the port became operational.
Though it is connected to Cochin Port by an inland waterway through the Vembanad Lake, the National Waterway 3 at a distance of 85 kilometres, the KPCT did not live up to its name of a port in real terms as not even a single container could be diverted to waterways from road.
However, road-to-road container transport is in operation, partially.
The port is almost in a neglected state despite state mentor Sam Pitroda stating that “the state can save Rs 800 crore per annum as fuel if we develop inland waterways” during his last meeting with the top brass of the state government on 10 major development projects in the state.
“There is a political agenda by the state government for neglecting the port,” alleges former MLA V N Vasavan.
“The waterways container movement could be started only if the cargo movement doubles up. Unfortunately it’s not happening. It needs a strong political will to develop the port and the present government lacks it,” he commented.
But Home Minister and local MLA Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan poohpoohed the allegation. “There is nothing political in this as there is no ‘CPM port.’ We are ready to provide any kind of support to the port if the authorities approach,” he said.
Meanwhile, Wilson Jacob, KPCT Chairman and Managing Director, refused to comment on the issue.