Launch of waterway today

CM likely to undertake short cruise on solar boat from Veli after opening

Overcoming several hurdles over decades, the 310-km stretch of the inland waterway from Veli to Chavakkad will be commissioned on February 15, opening a new fuel-efficient and eco-friendly mode of transportation.

The rejuvenated waterway, a pet project of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, is from Veli to Kollam (State Waterway: 62 km) and the National Waterway’s 168 km from Kollam to Kottapuram and Kottapuram to Chavakkad (80 km).

Indigenously made

The Chief Minister is expected to undertake a short cruise on a 24-seater solar boat from Veli after the formal inauguration at 10.30 a.m. on Monday. The solar boat, indigenously manufactured for Cochin International Airport Ltd. (CIAL), arrived from Kochi and carried out trial runs on the Veli-Kadinamkulam stretch of the Parvathy Puthanar on Saturday.

The trials were successful and the 15.6-m-long and 3.15-m-wide solar boat that can attain a maximum speed of 10 knots needs only one-metre depth. Official sources said they maintained 1.5 m to be on the safer side.

All work except 1.5 km on both sides of the 722-metre Sivagiri tunnel (completed in 1880) and the 350-metre Chilakoor tunnel, the major challenges on the Akkulam-Kollam stretch, had been tackled. Boats can move along the two tunnels as they have a diameter of 4.7 m and the remaining works will be completed by the Inland Navigation Department this month.

The 168-km Kollam-Kottapuram stretch of the 633-km West Coast canal — the main arterial waterway traversing through 11 districts — is already navigable. The corridor from Kollam to Kottapuram can facilitate the movement of 350 to 500 tonnes of cargo.

Demolition delay

The stretch from Akkulam to Kollam has a width of 10 to 15 m and depth of 1.2 to 1.5 m. Kerala Waterways and Infrastructure Ltd. (KWIL), the special purpose vehicle created for the rejuvenation of the inland waterways, has also completed the work along the six km from Akkulam to Vallakadavu. But the delay in demolishing the 2.75-m high bridge at Karikkakom and installing a hydraulic bridge is preventing the movement of the solar boat to Vallakadavu.

Beyond Chavakkad, the six low-level bridges and the Kuttai regulator in the Ponnani-Kozhikode corridor are the hurdles. The priority is to make the waterway from north to south navigable by 2022 and then attain the National Waterway III standards by 2025.

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