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Marine Drive-Varapuzha ring road under council fire

KOCHI: The Kochi Corporation’s move to take up Greater Cochin Development Authority's (GCDA) ring road project and secure Central funding for the same has come in for harsh criticism. Councilors are opposing the local body's move, stating that the construction of the road would lead to large-scale reclamation of water bodies.

The local body had planned to submit the 10.5-km long first phase of the ring road project, linking Marine Drive and Varapuzha, along with other projects before the Centre for additional funding under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme.

Councilors allege that the local body was pushing the project to aid builders and real estate dealers who have planned mega projects along the route. The ring road will help them circumvent certain Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms and provide road frontage to their properties. "We are not against the project, but we oppose reclamation of backwaters and other water bodies. As per the current plan, they will have to go for extensive reclamation. They also don't have plans for constructing the road on an elevated structure," said councilor V A Srijith.

According to councilor N A Shafer, if the local body evicts encroachments along the route, there won't be any need to reclaim backwaters. "The encroachments are about 300 meters wide. If authorities remove them, they can easily construct a 36-meter wide road," he said.

Kochi mayor Tony Cham many has clarified that GCDA would be able to go ahead with the project only if it gets the clearance from the ministries concerned, including sanctions from the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF). "The GCDA town planner has prepared the detailed project report (DPR). The veracity of these disputes can be verified when the project is forwarded to MoEF for clearance."

Facing stiff resistance from opposition councilors, the council took a decision to approve the resolution with an amendment that they would take up the project only if it doest not result in the reclamation of water bodies.

Responding to the issue, GCDA chairman N Venugopal said the authority would hold discussions with the Cochin Port Trust (CPT) to reach a final decision on road design. "The ring road project is being proposed as a parallel road to International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) Road. The CPT will have a major role to play in project execution. Environment norms can be relaxed for the development of port-related activities," he said. The ring road project has been designed to be 36-meter wide and if CPT can remove encroachments it would speed up project execution, he said.

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