If all goes well, Kochi should have a unique transport system by November 2020, a year from now. This would be the country’s first ‘water metro’.
The central government's environmental clearance has come for the Kochi water metro project, which is aimed at connecting 10 islands in the Kochi area, through a network of 15 routes, which together will cover an area of 78 km. The project -- being implemented by a company called ‘Kochi Metro Rail Ltd’ -- is expected to benefit more than 100,000 islanders living locally as well as some of the many visitors to the region.@The project planners are confident that the result of all the hard work will be the best water transport project in all of Asia" says Alkesh Kumar Sharma, Managing Director, KMRL. Given the standard of the recently completed airport further north at Kannur, he may well be right.
Water transport was once the primary means of transport for goods and people all over the area of course, as Kerala has many inland waterways and backwaters, so it is in historical and ecological harmony with the area. The largest water body in this part of the state is Vembanad Lake, which has seen a mushrooming growth of tourist houseboats over recent decades, but a corresponding decline in practical water services for locals and roads have become clogged instead.
One big advantage of the KMRL project is that it is expected to reduce pollution and traffic congestion in crowded downtown Ernakulam and also provide easy access to business areas on the mainland for urban households along the Kochi lakeshore. Water transport is also inherently more energy-efficient than its equivalent on rail and road, and this benefit will be maximised as the plan is to use only modern energy-efficient and environmentally friendly boats. These will take the shape of a fleet of 78 electrically-propelled hybrid ferries travelling between a total of 38 jetties.
This wide geographic spread will serve a varied population in what is being touted as a 'socially inclusive transport system’.
The project is a large one, estimated to cost Rs 747.28 crore with core water transport infrastructure estimated at Rs 435.37 crore. About 40% of this funding will come from the German Funding Agency KfW, with the rest coming from the government of Kerala, and perhaps a 5% top-up private funding involvement.
So, by this time next year, the visitor to Kerala will have a unique experience of Kochi by Sea to add to their itinerary!