All major roads from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram will be made free of level crossings, said P A Muhammad Riyas, the Minister for Public Works and Tourism.
Responding to readers' queries in a Phone-in programme organized by Malayala Manorma, the minister said the tendering processes of 10 level crossings have been completed.
The hill and coastal highway projects will be completed in a time-bound and environment-friendly manner, Riyas said. Alternative roads and over bridges will be constructed to ease traffic congestion on national highways.
The acquisition of land for widening the nation highway into six lanes will be expedited, he said.
The government will declare the Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod waterway as a special tourism highway. Heritage tourism projects will be implemented in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Aranmula, Ponnani and Kozhikode, after similar projects in Alappuzha, Muziris, and Thalassery.
Riyas also revealed a Spice Route plan which will connect ancient ports here with those in Europe and West Asia. The Public Works Department will commence projects worth Rs 20,000 crore in five years, apart from the Rs 25,000 crore-projects currently under implementation, which will soon be completed.
The minister also assured connectivity to the hill highway from all districts.
Below are select questions and the minister's response from the phone-in programme:
There are several partially completed projects under the Public Works Department. While big-ticket projects get more attention, other projects, such as construction of small roads and bridges, are progressing at a snail's pace.
Henceforth, the public works department will not extend the time for completion of projects. The department will strictly ensure that the projects are completed within the stipulated time. District-level meetings of department officials are now being held. They have been directed to complete all on-going projects in a time-bound manner.
Acquiring land is the major impediment in developing the national highway into six lanes. The acquisition process should be expedited.
The national highway six-lane project in the State will be completed within five years. Collectors will convene special meetings at places having acquisition-related issues.
Immediate measures should be initiated to ease traffic congestion on national highways. Permanent solutions should be found after identifying areas having frequent traffic congestion.
A few places have been identified. Traffic congestion has been majorly reported from several spots on the stretch connecting Thrissur with Kasaragod. Other areas are Valancherry, Kottakkal, Kannur and Koyilandy. Solutions, such as constructing bypass or over bridges, and widening of junctions, appropriate to each area will be rolled out.
The development of the Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod waterway is underway. Can't the government consider tourism projects along this route?
The Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod waterway will be declared as a special tourism highway. As many as 50 tourism centres will be developed along the waterway with the cooperation of local bodies.
There are complaints of lakes getting more polluted with the increase in the number of houseboats.
The number of houseboats will be restricted based on the lake’s carrying capacity. Sewage treatment plants will also be set up.
Tourism projects should benefit local residents also.
Our quality of life should improve along with the development of tourism. The government's responsible tourism plan aims to achieve this end. The responsible tourism projects will ensure employment and income to villagers. Cleanliness is of utmost importance for the development of tourism. The responsibility of keeping the area clean will rest with the local residents. Tourism centres in a district will be interconnected.
The tourism sector has been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The sector needs special projects to overcome the crisis.
Domestic tourism will get more prominence since foreigners are reluctant to visit India due to the spread of COVID-19. The number of tourism centres will be increased to attract domestic tourists. The government will launch tourism training centres, besides improving basic facilities at tourism spots.
One panchayat, one tourism centre
Minister Muhammad Riyas said the government will ensure revenue for the people through tourism projects. A tourism centre will be developed in each village, and roads connecting the centres will be modernized.
A special tourism package will be prepared for Wayanad. The number of tourists visiting Kerala will be doubled by 2025. Kerala had received 11.89 lakh foreigners and 1.83 crore domestic tourists in 2019.
The aim is to increase the number of foreign visitors to 20 lakh and domestic tourists to 3.65 crore by 2025. Kerala will be made a total responsible tourism centre in five years. Projects will be drawn up jointly with local bodies to achieve this end, Riyas said.