Kerala: CSML term extended to March 2025 amid ongoing projects, criticism

"With work on 38 of 69 projects ongoing, 80-90% of allocated funds have been utilised," said the agency officials.
An unfinished footpath at Fort Kochi
An unfinished footpath at Fort KochiPhoto | Express

KOCHI: The term of the Cochin Smart Mission Ltd (CSML), which was set to end on June 30, has been extended till March 31, 2025, with some of the key projects yet to be completed.

CSML was formed as a special-purpose vehicle (SPV) to ensure operational independence and autonomy in decision making and mission implementation. Set up in 2015, the agency has completed 31 of the 69 projects it took up. Work on the remaining 38 projects is ongoing.

Agency officials said that 80-90% of the allocated funds have been utilised. “We received most of the due funds last week. This includes Rs 500 crore from the central government and Rs 500 crore from the state government and Kochi corporation. The corporation has so far given us Rs 11 crore of the total Rs 70 crore,” said Shaji V Nair, CEO of CSML.

In the last one year, CSML’s focus has been on projects in the urban development sector. “After I took charge as CEO, I encountered no difficulty in getting the projects approved. The chief secretary has been very supportive, which enabled us to take up so many projects,” said Nair.

‘West Kochi blighted’

However, former Kochi mayor and historian K J Sohan alleged that CSML has done damage to the west Kochi area, especially Fort Kochi, one of the prominent tourist spots in the state. “Fort Kochi was one of the first to be recognised as a heritage city. Visual appeal is one of the characteristics of a heritage city. CSML has removed all the granite stones and renovated footpaths using tiles,” said Sohan.

He said that Fort Kochi has immense tourism potential and CSML could have used the funds for real beautification work. “ The stones that were used to develop the area were brought from overseas by the Portuguese and Dutch. CSML removed the granite and replaced it with tiles. Moreover, its work lacks polish. It is half baked,” stressed Sohan, pointing to an uncovered portion of a footpath. Jabbar, a street vendor in Fort Kochi, said it has been four months since CSML installed new LED streetlights. “Within the first month, they stopped working. I took this up with CSML and corporation officials, but to no avail,” he said, adding, “At night, the area is ill-lit, making it conducive for illicit activities,” he said.

‘Commendable work’

Meanwhile, Kochi mayor M Anilkumar said that most of the CSML work was jointly implemented by the corporation. “CSML has done a commendable job with roads and footpaths in the city area. Extension of Marine Drive to APJ Abdul Kalam Marg, installation of LED streetlights, renovation of open spaces etc., has been up to the mark. A few projects await completion, such as Ernakulam Market renovation, Calvathy bridge and Thuruthi Tower. These are expected to be finished by March 2025,” said Anilkumar, adding that the corporation brought two suction-cum-jetting and street sweeping machines.

Showing the smarts

Set up in 2015, CSML has completed 31 of the 69 projects it took up. Work on the remaining 38 projects is ongoing. Here are some of the key works undertaken by the agency

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The New Indian Express