Thiruvananthapuram: The Akkulam Lake rejuvenation project is facing significant hurdles as the state tourism department is reportedly reluctant to move forward with its implementation. The department had previously expressed concerns about the project’s consultant, Kolkata-based Biostarts Ventures, responsible for monitoring the lake’s water quality.
Although a technical committee had verified the consultant’s credentials and approved its involvement, the department set up a new panel to make a final decision within two weeks.
Kadakampally Surendran, MLA, recently criticized the tourism department in the assembly for the significant delays in executing the project. Sources said certain vested interests within the department may be attempting to derail the project.
An anonymous official revealed that despite the previous technical committee’s approval of the consultant, this endorsement was omitted from the meeting minutes. The project had also received support from the Officer on Special Duty at the Chief Minister’s Office, S Karthikeyan.
“The tourism department needs to check the credentials of the consultant again. Already, a committee has given it the go-ahead. However, it was disbanded, and a new committee was formed. They have yet to make a decision. However the tourism department is not so keen on the project, and it wants it scrapped. Maybe there will be some external interventions. It should also be noted that the approval by the former technical committee on the consultant was deliberately avoided in the minutes of the meeting. This project was also given a green signal by the officer on special duty at the chief minister’s office (CMO), S Karthikeyan,” said an official who requested anonymity.
The delay has hindered the formation of a tripartite agreement between the tourism department, Sri Avantika Constructions, and Wapcos, the special purpose vehicle established for the project.
A top official of the tourism department said the decision to re-verify the credentials is crucial to ensuring that the project is in capable hands and will meet the expected standards. “Given the significance of the project for local tourism, it is imperative that we are thorough in our vetting process. So, a re-verification is necessary. We are not scrapping the project,” the official stated. Tourism minister PA Mohammed Riyas is expected to call a meeting soon to address the concerns and find a solution. The minister’s intervention is seen as crucial to fast-tracking the project and ensuring that any remaining issues are promptly resolved.
The project encompasses a range of activities aimed at cleaning the lake, enhancing its biodiversity, and developing surrounding infrastructure to support tourism.
Ensuring water quality is a key aspect of the project, with the contractor committed to meeting specific water quality standards or facing penalties. Once the tripartite agreement is finalized, the contractor can begin work immediately, including dredging the lake and removing hyacinths.