A public hearing organised in connection with Kochi Metro Rail Limited’s (KMRL) Rs. 747-crore Water Metro project in the Greater Kochi area here on Monday saw participants seek more boat terminals on the 76-km-long route, especially in the densely-populated West Kochi.

The hearing chaired by District Collector K.Mohammed Y. Safirulla was organised by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB) as part of readying the project’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report. KMRL intends to procure 23 ferries which can carry 100 people and 55 ferries which have capacity for 50 commuters. The first ferry is expected by mid-2019.

Chinese nets

KMRL officials said that the request for more jetties will be placed before the State government. They also assured that the upcoming boat jetty in Fort Kochi will in no way affect Chinese fishing nets on either side which have heritage value. This was in response to concerns raised by civic representatives that the structure would affect the nets whose number is already down from 27 to 12 due to sea erosion and difficulty in procuring lengthy teak poles.

KMRL officials said that civil works will be minimal and that the biggest of boat terminals will cover an area of 2,000 sq.ft.

Floating jetties have been planned to overcome tidal variations. They also assured that the fare will be minimal and that the State government will have to take a final call on the issue.

Civic representatives from Kadamakudy said that the project must not in any way harm its biodiversity and that of other isles where ferries will call at.

Former Mayor K.J. Sohan, who was among the participants at the public hearing, demanded that the proposed ferry jetty in Fort Kochi be relocated and integrated with the existing boat and roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferry terminal in Kamalakadavu, thus enabling seamless connectivity with the adjacent bus stand.

He also sought a Water Metro jetty near Customs Boat Jetty, used by thousands of ferry commuters every day.

Mr. Sohan further reiterated the demand to adhere to the project’s DPR which suggested fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) as the ideal material for the hull of Water Metro ferries. Opting for steel would considerably increase the lifecycle cost of each vessel, he said.

The PCB will send details of the EIA hearing to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, which will in turn take a call on granting environmental clearance for the project. The Ministry can also issue a list of recommendations on the project. Frequent visits too will be made to ensure that the project adheres to environment norms.

PCB Chief Environment Engineer N.A. Baiju and Environmental Engineer Mini Mary Sam were among those present. KMRL was represented by a team led by Shaji P.J., General Manager of the Water Metro project.

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