Water bus, the new boat service in the Vyttila-Kakkanad sector was inaugurated a couple of days back by the Union Minister K V Thomas. Water Bus, operated by the Kerala State Water Transport Department, set off on its maiden trip from the newly built jetty near the Vytilla Mobility Hub. The boat has the capacity to carry 8 bikes and 50 passengers.
The service will be a boon for those who work in Kakkanad /Infopark as the timings are fixed in such a way that it suits the office goers. The boat will reach the jetty, near InfoPark, in 30 minutes whereas the buses take around 45 minutes.The fare from Vyttila-Kakkanad trip is fixed at Rs. 8 and there will be seven daily services, the first in the morning being at 9.30 am.
The boat service is expected to take off a considerable load from the choked roads leading to Kakkanad. Boat service is way cheaper and faster alternative to the crowded buses that ply in this route. “Proper boat jetties with ample parking space must be built on the way to Kakkanad. SWTD must also recruit 15 crew members to man the sister vessel that is ready to operate in hub-Kakkanad sector,” said Benny Behanan, MLA.
“Our aim is to introduce catamaran-type fibre-reinforced-plastic boats, which are delivered within a few months of the order being placed. Being lighter and faster than steel boats, they can cover the Vyttila-Kakkanad distance in 12 minutes,” Elias George, MD of KMRL and Chairman of Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA). said.
Inland navigation, which can make travelling within Kerala a lot more faster and congestion free holds a tremendous potential and Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) has drawn up a Rs 40-crore project for the purpose. There are many viable water routes that can be explored and developed like for instance the Kollam-Kottapuram National Waterway III can make a potential cargo transportation route whereas a boat service from Poothotta to Cochin city will go a long way in decongesting the city during peak morning hours as buses take around 90 minutes to cover a distance of just 22 Km due to the pitiable condition of the roads and traffic bottle necks!
Photo Courtesy: RouteCochin.com
Malayalee poets have always fantasised rivers, forests and lagoons as nature’s dowry in some of their best literary creations. However it seems that these have become the private gifts of the land mafia and the resort owners in Kerala going by the way they usurp priceless and highly fragile land by flouting the many rules and regulations in place.
Banyan Tree , a Seven-star deluxe villa resort, built on an islet in Vembanad backwaters, a Ramsar site, (a wetland of international importance and protected by the Ramsar Convention)with full cooperation of state agencies, has been served a demolition notice. Promoted by the Muthoot group and Kuwait-based Kapico group, it is alleged that this resort was built by filling up the surrounding backwaters to reclaim land
Banyan Tree is located on the private island of Nediyathuruthu, surrounded by the unspoilt beauty of the backwaters in Kerala’s Alleppey district. It is ironical that the luxurious all-pool villa, Banyan Tree is the first Indian outpost of the award-winning resort chain group, which owns premium resorts and hotels in Asia-Pacific.
The Kerala High Court, July 25 has come down heavily by ordering the demolition of all 59 villas and other constructions on the tiny island in the backwaters within three months. A division bench of the high court, comprising justices K M Joseph and K Harilal cited violation of various laws and norms like the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), EIA Notification-2006, Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act-2008 and Wetland conservation and Management Rules-2010.
Nediyathuruthu, one of the the seven tiny islets in the Vembabad backwaters in Alappuzha was originally made of paddy fields and water-logged areas. The land , which was acquired by a chartered accountant from various owners was later purchased by Mini Muthoot group, a non-banking financial corporation in Kerala and the Kuwait-based Kapico Group, which has operations in over 11 countries. The paddy fields were filled up along with the surrounding backwaters of around 2.04 acres and a private jetty was constructed without obtaining permission from the irrigation department.
According to the coastal zone regulations, constructions within 50 metre from the shoreline are strictly prohibited. The maximum height of the structures should not exceed nine metre and it is mandatory to leave 20 metre distance between two buildings. Banyan tree resort has found to have violated all these rules. This luxury hotel project, which was built at around 250 crore also failed to obtain the mandatory clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest for all investments above Rs 5 crore.
Some of the other resorts that are facing action include Vaamika island and green lagoon. Only tough action will deter the land sharks and private groups from eating into the prime land of Kerala. The area of Vembanad lake has been reduced to a paltry 12,000 hectares from 42,000 hectares in the past few decades, and if adequate monitoring system in not in place , the day is not far away when the largest fresh water lake in Asia would dry up like Bharatapuzha, which has now been reduced to a thin streak of water from being a bountiful river in the past!
American author and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain arrived in Alappuzha in March 2010 to learn about Kerala’s mouth-watering spicy cuisine about which he had heard from many. Later, his visit was featured on Discovery Channel’s culinary and cultural adventure programme titled ‘No Reservations’. (see episode in question) This was hosted by him. His opinion about Kerala cuisine tasted in the toddy shops caught on and foreign tourists started flocking to toddy shops in Alappuzha. Bourdain appreciated not only the cuisine of toddy shops but also the hospitality of toddy shops.
His programme helped a lot to gain global attention and the toddy shop owners are formulating new strategies to lure tourists by their traditional culinary skills and improved way of toddy business.
The sleepy island of Valiaparamb in Kasargod district in North Kerala would have got cut off from the mainland but for the determination and grit of a handful of women. When the boatmen of the island decided to strike work citing the reason of fuel shortage to operate the boats, the women took up the challenge by taking the oars of the boat that they launched. The 24 km long Valiaparamb island is accessible only by ferry services along the Kovvai lake, which connects two other islands.
Though the water transport authorities are operating two boats, these are insufficient to cater to the travel needs of the islanders. When this issue was taken up for discussion at the Kudumbashree, a few illustrious women stepped into the scene and decided to throw in their oars into the waters literally. Instead of depending on someone to provide boat services, three enterprising women in their sixties decided to rent a boat and launch their own service which is available from 7.30 am to 6.30 pm every day. These women take scores of men , women and children across the waters to the other shores, everyday. A team of 15 workers from the self help group of Kudumbasree is now operating the service, which has become the life line of the islanders who have to travel to the mainland to eke out a living.
The district administration has made registration compulsory for all the houseboats in Alappuzha and the house boat owners have been given a time of one week for submitting the necessary documents in this regard. The Ports Department will be conducting routine inspections and the houseboats without the necessary certificates will be seized by the police and criminal cases slapped against these house boat owners.Three police patrol teams have been set up at various locations like Muhamma, Punnamada and Pallathuruthy in Vembanad Lake to conduct routine inspections inside the houseboats during cruise.
Though there are over 800 boats plying in Alappuzha backwaters only around 490 boats have registration certificates at present. In the wake of accidents involving houseboats, steps have also been initiated to revoke the license of the houseboat and the crew and to blacklist them if they are found to consume liquor on board during duty time. The Ports Department is also planning to set up a sewage treatment plant for the houseboats to prevent water pollution.
Houseboats are the biggest attractions in any Kerala holiday itinerary and by ensuring a safe and enjoyable cruise, back water tourism in Kerala will indeed get a major boost. These safety measures will indeed make Alappuzha and Kumarakom backwaters which form the nerve centres of backwater tourism more popular than never before among the tourists.
There are countless ways to beat stress; you can curl up with your favourite book, plan a holiday to a beach resort or hit the bars. However, for something truly interesting and new, check out this fledgling outdoor activity of kayaking in the backwaters of Kochi. Yes, you heard it right the unexplored activity of kayaking in the backwaters of Kochi is finding many new takers including high profile professionals like doctors and techies among others. The delightfully quiet isles of Kothad, Pizhala and Kadamakudi near Ernakulam are all well cut for kayaking.
On popular demand, the organisers, Scuba Cochin, have decided to make their two-and-a-half hour kayaking trips into a weekly event, which is open to 20 people at a time. Though kayaking is a popular holiday activity in the backwaters of Aleppey, it is a new trend in Cochin, which is attracting not just water sports enthusiasts but also families and youth groups. The best thing about kayaking is that it brings you closer to nature, and it is something that can be done at your own pace.
Though kayaking is a popular event in overseas holiday itineraries, it is a relatively new trend in Kerala. By creating interest in Olympic events like sailing, rowing and kayaking, Kerala can go a long way in tapping the youth potential in these watersports, as well. So next time when you get stressed up with your workload, all you need to do is to plan an interesting spell of kayaking to get refreshed.
The beauty spot and the green lung of the city of Kochi, the Marine Drive is likely to be extended further to Varapuzha, as per the plans of the Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA) for the development plan of an emerging Kochi.
The government has already approved the second phase of the development of Marine Drive in principle. The GCDA has been entrusted with the task of preparing a project report and conducting an environment study. In this phase GCDA is planning to set up a world trade centre, International convention centre and entertainment zone. The first phase of ring road to Varapuzha will be taken up soon. Some of the other projects that are being included in the Marine Drive development plan of Vision 2030 include an entertainment zone at Marine Drive, International Trade Centre and a Logistic Centre. The GCDA had already conducted two meetings with regard to Vision 2030, which was attended by delegates who are involved with the city’s development both directly and indirectly.
The GCDA is also going ahead with its plan of convening a two-day workshop later in the month, which would be attended by architects, town planners, political leaders and subject matter experts. The exponential growth of Cochin, the commercial capital of Kerala has thrown open a series of challenges in areas like infrastructural development. Kochi might need more such far sighted and innovative projects that can handle the pressure of a burgeoning population and the corresponding developmental activities to make it a well planned city.
The biggest bane of Kerala is the appalling conditions of its roads that remain in a non motorable state all round the year. Pot holes appear as soon as the tarring is completed leaving the users badly grounded. However, there seems to be some hope for this nagging problem in the form of cotton nets that can be used for reinforcing the roads. The water logged areas of Kuttanad have already made use of this product in strengthening its roads and bunds. The project, successfully implemented in association with the Kerala Industrial and Technical Consultancy Organisation in different wards of Edathua last year is primarily aimed at preventing soil erosion.
Soil erosion is rampant in Kuttanad region where floods occur twice a year, which wash off the roads and bunds. The new techniques is expected to strengthen the roads by keeping the soil on both sides of the road tightly wrapped. Recently a stretch of road from Edathua to Puvakkad was constructed using the technique and it is expected to stay in good condition for a minimum of four years.
The cotton nets are first spread on the embankments of the road , which are vulnerable to soil erosion. The nets are then fixed to the soil using bamboo and grass and tree saplings are planted, which keep the net tightly fixed. The need of the hour is to ensure high quality roads, which has a vital role in the economic development of Kerala. These indigenous methods would indeed go a long way in offering cost effective solutions for making the roads stable and long lasting.
When MV Lahore Express, a Hong Kong flagged vessel got berthed at the International Container Transhipment Terminal (ICTT) , it became the first ever weekly direct service vessel between Kochi and the European ports. The vessel that will make service calls to the major ports in Europe such as Genoa, Tilbury, Hamburg, Rotterdam and Le Havre, will ensure a major a boost to the trade and commercial activities in Kochi.
The commencement of this service from ICTT will offer a faster transit option that will considerably reduce the supply chain cost, making Kochi one of the most important ports in the country. With this facility, the South Indian trading fraternity in Bangalore, Tirupur, Salem and Coimbatore among others can directly export goods to Europe from ICTT on a weekly basis without having to rely on the expensive option of transshipment facility. ICIT not only offers the shortest transit time but also the best rates and facilities at par with the best international ports. ICTT,which was set up on BOT basis by the DP World will play a significant role in making Kochi a trading hub of international standards, in the days ahead.