Vizhinjam port must go ahead, say Kerala parties

June 25th, 2009 - 2:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, June 25 (IANS) Kerala’s ruling and opposition parties joined hands Thursday to say that the Rs.53.48 billion port in Vizhinjam must go ahead, a day after the developer who had won the bid to build the project pulled out on grounds of delays and legal tangles.
Minister of Ports M. Vijayakumar said in the assembly that the government was prepared to cooperate with the opposition to work out the modalities of what could be done.

“One way to find a solution is to ask the centre to take over the project. We are prepared to call an all party meeting to find out what needs to be done,” said Vijayakumar.

P.C. George, who heads the Kerala Congress-Secular, said a company should be formed to raise funds for the project that will come up near the famous Kovalam beach and was mooted 19 years ago.

“The need of the hour is that we should form a company and seek the help of non-resident Keralites and all interested people to raise funds for this dream project of the state. We don’t have to go after others to build the port,” said George.

Leader of opposition Oommen Chandy pledged support to ensure that the project becomes a reality.

“If Vizhinjam was in any other state, the port would have come up many many years ago… The need of the hour is to see we finish the first phase of the proposed port in five years’ time and we are with you for it,” said the Congress leader and former chief minister.

Congress legislator George Merceier, under whose constituency Vizhinjam is located, said big companies must come forward to make the project a reality.

The Hyderabad based Lanco Kondapally, which had won the bid to build the proposed port, wrote to the state government Wednesday to say they were withdrawing from the project because of the indefinite delay and possible legal tangles.

The Vizhinjam port project was conceived to be developed under the build-operate-transfer (BOT) scheme. Built over 150 acres with no displacement of local fishermen, it would be handed over to the state government after 30 years.

With a natural depth at 24 metres, one of the deepest in the world, the port needs no dredging. It would be located close to a busy international shipping route, and handle 4.1 million containers annually.

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