Monday, August 21, 2006

Kerala, TN in row over Rs 10,000 cr port projects

A major battle is underway between Kerala and Tamil Nadu over the development of international container trans shipment terminals worth Rs 10,000 crore.

Kerala has alleged that its Rs 4,500-crore Vizhinjam terminal in Thiruvananthapuram is being underplayed by Shipping Minister TR Baalu for promoting a Rs 5,500-crore container hub at Kolachel Port near Kannyakumari.

According to the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation, the state is in talks with the Malaysian government to execute this as a government-to-government project.

The Kerala project hit a roadblock when the Chinese firms that had won the mandate for the project along with a Mumbai-based company failed to get security clearance from the Centre.

“Both Kolachel and Vizhinjam are non-major ports which are coming directly under state governments. The shipping minister is ignoring the Vizhinjam project and he is taking more interest in Kolachel. He had recently visited the plot to boost its prospects,” sources said.

Speaking to Business Standard, KT Roy of Kerala-based NGO Capital City Development Forum said: “Vizhinjam Port was being sabotaged by the shipping minister to promote Kolachel Port. Kolachel is a commercial port with just a 10-metre depth but Vizhinjam will have a depth of 27 metres and it is very close to the international route.”

In addition to various NGOs fighting for Vizhinjam, the MPs of both the Marxist-led ruling Left Democratic Front and the Congress-led Opposition United Democratic Front have united for this cause.

“We have convened an all-party meeting and a delegation will meet the prime minister next week,” a state government official said. Sources close to the development said Tamil Nadu had already completed the techno-economic feasibility study for the project with Malaysian participation.

The Malaysian government had signed an agreement with the Tamil Nadu government for construction during the previous term of the DMK front.


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