Kerala fronts continue blame game over proposed Vizhinjam port

Thiruvananthapuram, April 19 (IANS) The blame game over the much-delayed proposed Vizhinjam Port resumed Friday with the Left opposition forming a human chain from Vizhinjam to the state secretariat and attacking the Congress-led state and central governments for not taking forward the project seriously.

The 18-km-long human chain, organised by the district committee of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), began with Communist Party of India-Marxist state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan at the Vizhinjam end, Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan at the East Fort in the heart of the city and Communist Party of India state secretary Paniyan Ravindran the last at the secretariat.

The LDF has blamed the central government for dumping this port and taking up the Tuticorin port in neighbouring Tamil Nadu where a huge allocation was made in the recent central budget by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, who hails from the state.

Hitting back at the Left, state Ports Minister K. Babu in a statement, Friday said work was on and accused the LDF of making a mountain out of a molehill to cover up their lapses for not doing anything concrete while they were in power from 2006-2011.

“Vizhinjam is not competing with the Tuticorin port but instead with the Colombo port. We are going ahead with the project on the ‘Landlord model’,” he said.

In the landlord model, the role of the state government is to set up the basic infrastructure, while the superstructure and the daily functioning of the port would be undertaken by the port operator.

“The environment impact assessment study that was done over a period of 18 months is over and the reports are being collated by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board. After the public hearing is over, the report would be submitted to the (central) ministry of environment and forests for the final clearance,” said Babu.

“The LDF government acquired just 31 acres of land for this project whereas, after we assumed office in May 2011, we acquired 81 acres of land besides land acquisition for a state of the art warehouse is going smoothly,” he added.

Incidentally this project to be completed in three phases has been in the drawing board of three previous governments and the project cost which was envisaged to cost close to Rs.5,000 crore about five years back was revised by the Chandy government recently and estimated to now cost Rs.4,010 crore.

The proposed Vizhinjam port is to come up near the famed tourist destination of Kovalam and the proposed site has a natural depth at 24 meters, one of the deepest in the world and hence requiring no dredging.

It will be located close to a busy international shipping route, and is envisaged to handle 4.1 million containers annually.

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