Kerala’s much-touted 625-km coastal highway project connecting nine districts has received a fillip following a recent meeting convened by the State PWD Minister, Mohammed Riyas, with district collectors concerned to speed up the land acquisition process. The ₹6,500 crore project will be a game changer in the State’s tourism initiatives by attracting travellers from within the country and abroad.

The coastal highway will pass through Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasargod. Running parallel to the existing National Highway network, the coastal highway is to be funded by Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board and will have a width of 14 metres with a cycle track.

Charting course

The Kerala Road Fund Board project management unit will construct 468 km, and the remaining work to be taken up by National Highways Authority of India under the BharatMala Pariyojana Scheme.

At the meeting, the minister directed officials to appoint necessary staff to carry out the land acquisition process as preliminary works for the project has already started.

“We are committed to make the project a reality as it will be a catalyst for the development of coastal tourism initiatives. Adequate follow ups will be taken and chart out a specific time-line for its completion. A mission team from PWD will be there to evaluate the works and review its progress at regular intervals”, the Minister said. A good rehabilitation package is being worked out for those who surrender their land, he added.

The State Government took up the project based on the study by the Thiruvanthapuram-based National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC) in 1993. The Centre recommended measures to reduce traffic congestion along the NH and to develop a corridor for increasing the tourism potential. The government gave its approval for the alignment prepared by NATPAC in 2017.

Experts speak

Experts in the shipping industry have suggested constructing a 2.5 km under-sea link connecting Fort Cochin and Vypeen in the project, citing the existence of several such tunnels in the English Channel, South Korea and Sydney.

Jose Paul, former chairman of Mormugao Port, said that GAIL, Indian Oil and BPCL having a significant presence in Puthuvypeen will be highly benefited by the tunnel, which would help them to reduce their transportation cost significantly.

The project can be taken up through a PPP route. Such innovative infrastructure projects will be capable of producing a revolutionary impact on Kerala’s economy, he added.

According to Munshid Ali, secretary of Kerala Exporters Forum, the project will be highly beneficial for the hassle-free movement of container laden trailers from Malabar region to Vallarpadam Terminal or to the proposed Vizhinjam terminal. It will enable connecting several minor ports with transhipment ports.

The State government should also take up the issue with the Centre for the long awaited Thalassery-Mysore Road to connect it with the coastal highway for a smooth movement of export cargo from the northern part of the State , he said.

The land acquisition is likely to be a major hurdle even as successive governments have put it on hold. However, the present government has decided to expedite the project.