Fort Kochi beachfront to be conserved with support of PSUs, private players

Fort Kochi beachfront to be conserved with support of PSUs, private players

With many parts of the Fort Kochi beach and the walkway in ruins, efforts are on to rope in private players for their upkeep.

With many parts of the Fort Kochi beach and the walkway in ruins, efforts are on to rope in private players for their upkeep.
| Photo Credit: H. VIBHU

Faced with flak for doing little to conserve the historic Fort Kochi beach and repair the ill-maintained walkway, Kerala Tourism is considering seeking help from public sector units (PSUs) and private players to restore the heritage locale to its past glory.

Fund crunch, cumbersome procedures, and slack inter-departmental coordination delaying projects have been cited as among the reasons for the move. “An apt example is the huge delay in clearing a bill worth just ₹7.50 lakh to clear the dues of fishermen who were tasked with preparatory works prior to renovating the 11 Chinese fishing nets on the beach under a ₹2.44-crore project of Kerala Tourism. The net result is that almost all of the iconic nets are not being operated, despite the tourist season kicking in as early as in September,” official sources said.

The inordinate delay in finalising beach protection measures has been accentuated by visitors to the heritage locale having to put up with the ill-kept and encroached-upon Vasco Da Gama Square and footpaths that had been renovated under a multi-crore scheme two decades ago. Subsequently, hospitality and other stakeholders had expressed concern at the steady drop in the number of foreign tourists visiting Fort Kochi.

In this situation, a project to preen up the beach and walkway and to augment infrastructure like pay-and-use toilets with the help of PSUs and private stakeholders is expected to be announced at the impending Tourism Investors’ Meet in Thiruvananthapuram on November 16. Apart from joint ventures, public-private participation models and operational arrangements have been envisaged. For this, the agency had identified thrust areas and locations that needed investments for their sustainable upkeep. Apart from investors, representatives of trade bodies too are expected to attend the meet.

‘Work plan’ for Fort Kochi

“Preparatory meetings were held in various districts in the run-up to the event, and people can register online. Regional tourism officials have already submitted to Kerala Tourism a list of projects that need urgent attention. Fort Kochi finds prominent mention in it. A detailed project report can be readied once the department gave the green signal. In addition, the work plan for the coming fiscal, for which funds need to be earmarked in the forthcoming Budget, too has been submitted. The landscaping of either side of the Fort Kochi beach walkway to prevent littering and encroachments and installation of lights, benches and dust bins to replace damaged and corroded ones are among the items that find mention,” informed sources said.

The Ernakulam District Tourism Promotion Council will in all probability be vested with the task, once the project is cleared. It would also have to ensure operation and maintenance of the amenities, they added.

A prominent tourism player said her firm would present a few projects at the investors’ meet. “The prime tourism locale of yesteryears deserves to regain its stature as a clean, silent locale with plenty of green, open spaces, devoid of crass commercialisation,” she said.

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