The project to make the 633-km West Coast Canal (WCC) from Kovalam to Kasaragod navigable has got a fillip with the commissioning of the 310-km stretch of the inland waterway from Veli to Chavakkad by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday. The project is being taken up as per the National Waterways specifications at ₹2,300 crore.
At a simple function at the boat jetty of the Veli tourist village, the Chief Minister commissioned the rejuvenated 62 km of State Waterways from Veli to Kollam and 168 km of the National Waterway from Kollam to Kottappuram and 80 km from Kottappuram to Chavakkad.
Later, the Chief Minister took a short cruise from Veli to Poundukadavu in the Veli-Kadinamkulam stretch of the Parvathy Puthanar on a 24-seater solar boat, indigenously manufactured for Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL).
V.S. Sivakumar and V. Joy, MLAs; Additional Chief Secretary, Home and Inland Navigation T.K. Jose; and Managing Director of KWIL, V.J. Kurien, accompanied the Chief Minister.
All works, except that on 1.5 km on either side of the the 722-m Sivagiri tunnel and the 350-m Chilakoor tunnel, had been completed. Boats can move along the two tunnels as they have a diameter of 4.7 m. The remaining works will be completed by the Inland Navigation Department this month.
Already, the 168-km Kollam-Kottappuram stretch of the 633 km West Coast Canal — the main arterial waterway traversing through 11 districts — developed as National Waterway III is navigable. The corridor from Kollam to Kottappuram can facilitate the movement of 350 to 500 tonnes cargo vessels.
The stretch from Akkulam to Kollam has a width of 10-15 m and depth of 1.2-1.5 m.
Kerala Waterways and Infrastructure Ltd. (KWIL), the special purpose vehicle created for the rejuvenation of the inland waterways, has completed the work along the 6 km from Akkulam to Vallakadavu. But, the delay in demolishing a 2.75-m high bridge at Karikkakom and installing a hydraulic bridge is preventing the movement of the solar boat to Vallakadavu.
Beyond Chavakkad, six low-level bridges and the Kuttai regulator in the Ponnani-Kozhikode corridor pose hurdles. The plan is to make the waterway from north to south navigable by 2022 and then to take steps to attain the NW III standards of 32-m bottom width, 40-m top width and depth of 2.2 m by 2025.