KALADY: Kalady grama panchayat recently hogged the limelight due to the Sree Sankara bridge fiasco. A concrete panel broke off the 50-year-old bridge leaving the locals and the party activists fuming. A concrete slab had broken off the bridge, leaving the motorists and travellers stranded. In the sweltering noon heat, one can see the workers busy doing the repair works on the bridge which has been closed to traffic.
“We are placing cross beams on either side of the bridge as per the recommendation of Dr P K Aravindan. It is hoped that the bridge can be opened to traffic in 5 days. Some works have to done on the pavements too,” said the supervisor.
Illegal sand mining has also contributed to the weakening of Sree Sankara bridge, claims panchayat opposition leader M T Varghese. “Illegal sand mining, which was rampant until a few years ago, has increased the depth of the river by at least 3 metres. This has played a very important role in weakening the strength of the bridge,” said Varghese.
Varghese pointed out that the need of the hour is to construct a new and better bridge for the Kalady grama panchayat. He, however, expressed his solidarity with Chief Minister’s plan to build a new bridge, that will lie roughly half way between the existing bridge and the half constructed Sabari railway line. “According to the plan, the new bridge will be constructed parallel to the existing bridge and by- pass roads will be constructed to connect the bridge with Kalady-Aluva road and the airport road,” said panchayat president K B Sabu.
“Since land acquisitions take a lot of time, the government has given us clear instructions to fast track the purchase of 400 metres of land in our area and 200 metres of the land on the opposite side. Chief Minister has also intimated that the land acquisitions and the construction of the bridge should be completed as soon as possible. The survey and acquisition process of the land near the airport road is under way,” he said.
“Earlier, there were protests against this scheme as a section wanted to build a parallel bridge which would have increased the traffic bottlenecks in Kalady city. Chief Minister floated a new idea, which was found acceptable by all parties involved,” he says.
Traffic bottlenecks are a big issue in Kalady, says M T Varghese. “Kalady junction is a rife with traffic bottlenecks, as the road diverges from a width of 18m to 14m when it enters Kalady town. KSTP had initiated a road development scheme in 2003, which however remained stagnant as the authorities did not initiate proper action to possess the required land from the merchants on either side of the road. Proper rehabilitation measures could have been introduced for those merchants,” he said. Sabu, however, claimed that they had acted in the best interests of the merchants and the construction of the bridge and the construction of bypass would ease traffic jams throughout the Kalady town as the airport commuters will be able use the alternate bypass for easy access to the airport,” he said.
Several important by-roads like the Mattoor-Kaipattoor road, which is commonly used by commuters to reach Angamaly by bypassing Kalady town remains in a battered and pathetic condition, said retired panchayat employee Devassy as he took us on a ride through the pothole-ridden road mentioned above. “Crushers and other heavy vehicles move frequently through this road as several rice mills are located around the area,” he pointed out. “No efforts have been made to renovate this road yet.”
The flagship irrigation projects in Kalady are the Avanamcode lift irrigation scheme and the Chalakkudy irrigation system. “Chalakkudy irrigation scheme diverts water from the Chalakkudy river and delivers the same to 6 wards in Kalady panchayat. Onus is on the irrigation department to expand its supply of water to Kalady,” said Sabu. Avanamcode lift irrigation project, on the other hand, cannot use more than three of its five motors at a time, as the canals in certain areas are not wide enough to channel the amount water being pumped by the five pumps working in tandem. “The situation gets worse, especially in the months of March-April, as the foot valve pokes out when the water level goes down,” said Devassy.
The Sabari railway line seems to be another sore spot for Kalady. 16 years has passed since the work commenced but the railway station still remains unfinished. “As far as Kalady is concerned, Sabari railway plays a very important part in its development. Spices and rice mills are the most common industries in Kalady and the presence of functional railway system will very much help in the transport of these products to Mumbai and Delhi,” said Varghese. Both the opposition and the ruling parties seem to be one mind in claiming that more financial assistance from the Centre is necessary in bringing this project into a reality. “Not much can be done with the `20 crore assistance from the Centre,” they say. The railway line will also be a great help to the Sabarimala pilgrims who use Kalady as an intermediate stop in their travel plans.
One of the successful projects that have been carried out in Kalady is the new marketplace that was built under the aegis of the then speaker A P Kurian, who was also the MLA from Angamaly. “The marketplace will be all ready for possession by next year. It will also house a slaughterhouse with top notch sanitation and safety measures,” said Sabu.
Despite this, Kalady has a long way to go if it wants to realise its true tourism potential. “There are no taluks in Kalady,” said Varghese. “Its tourism potential remains largely untapped. A proper nutmeg disposal factory is very necessary, as the farmers have been incessantly claiming. A proper waste disposal system is lacking, and traffic bottlenecks at Kalady junction have made the commuter’s lives hell. Angamaly town and Perumbavoor town have developed fast, but the same pace of development is yet to reach Kalady,” he pointed out.