The Inland Water Transport Authority (IWTA) is making serious efforts to open a new cargo route from Kottappuram to Kollam through the Vembanad lake.
While many of the 12 unused water transport routes through the lake are good enough to be revived, the routes connecting Alappuzha with Cherthala, Vaikom with Kuthiyathode and Ponnamveli with Kumarakom cannot be given a new lease of life as many parts of the lake have been reclaimed for constructing roads.
Though the government had rolled out many projects to review the waterways all of them remain on paper.
Earlier, waterways were the primary means of transportation for the people of Alappuzha. However, they lost their importance when people started to ignore them and to depend on road transportation.
“Now, many of the unused waterways are covered with waterweeds and hyacinth. They have turned into the breeding grounds for mosquitoes. If these waterways are revived, they could be used for both transportation and tourism,” said Gopi, a native of Cherthala. The district has lost 12 waterways after bus service started through the Thanneermukkom bund in 1984. Moreover, the unscientific construction of foot over-bridges across the canals in the district is blocking the movement of boats, said a former officer of the Irrigation Department.
Arukkutty-Vaikom, Arukkutty-Panavally, Ponnamveli-Kumarakom, Kuthiathodu-Vaikom,Cherthala-Vaikom,Alappuzha,Cherthala,Thanneermukkom- Vaikom,Thanneermukkom-Mannanam, Alappuzha-Pulikeezhu, Alappuzha-Thalavady and Chengannur-Ernakulam are the routes which were once active and not being used now for transportation.
The Alappuzha-Cherthala waterway was blocked around 32 years ago when a portion of the lake was reclaimed for road construction at Kanjikkuzhy. Similarly, the Chengannur-Ernakulam cargo boat service was stopped in 2003, following poor response from cargo transporters.They lost their importance with the development of road transpiration, which is faster and more convenient. Also, an increase in the availability of goods in Alappuzha, which were not available earlier, prompted people to reduce the use of water transportation. The Cherthala-Vaikom boat service was also stopped for the same reason.
The Thanneermukkom- Mannanm boat service was stopped following the opening of the Thanneermukkom bund for bus service.Though the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) is not plying boats through these routes, private parties are using some parts of the Thanneermukkom-Mannanam, Thanneermukkom-Vaikom and Chengannur-Ernakulam routes for tourism purpose.According to SWTD officials, boat service in the Alappuzha-Pulikeezhu and Alappuzha-Thalavady routes were stalled due to construction of bridges.