Dr PV Chandramohan, President-Technical, Navayuga Engineering Co, tells us how a civil engineering solution was found to a financial problem.Cochin, or Kochi, is a port city located on the west coast of southern India. The metropolis lies at the tidal inlet of an extensive backwater system that opens out to the Arabian Sea. The water body is dotted with a number of islands. The city is spread over the Ernakulam mainland, the narrow stretches of land (Fort Kochi and Vypeen) abutting the sea, the intervening backwaters and the islands within. All this makes Kochi a confluence of land and water. On the southern side of the outlet to the sea lie the islands of Mattancherry, Palluruthy, Willingdon Island - Thevara, Nettoor and Kumbalam. The islands of Vypeen, Vallarpadom, Bolghatty and Thanthonni lie on the north.The need for connectivityThe Central Business District is Ernakulam on the mainland. Connections from the islands to the mainland are a necessity for effective communication. But these connections require expensive bridges. The islands in the south were connected by bridges as part of external projects like Cochin Port and NH 47. But the northern islands remained unconnected as no external projects came to be located there. These islands were in a grossly underdeveloped state. The islanders depend on the mainland for their livelihood.The only communication with the mainland is through ferries. Ferry services were few and far in between and completely absent at night. Medical emergencies resulted in tragic ends. There had been instances of heart patients dying because they could not be brought to the mainland in time. Other instances of women giving birth to babies in canoes on the way to hospital were not uncommon. Carrying cargo to the islands was easier said than done. The islanders were forced to take a hazardous boat journey, especially during monsoon, for their livelihood. The geographical integration of the parts of Kochi could be achieved only by the construction of bridges. Indeed, a bridge to the mainland had been a dream of the islanders for more than a half century. Vypeen bridges, as they were known, formed part of the election promises of all political parties. But the topic would generally die down after the polls were over.Reclaimed land to fund bridgesIt was proposed to connect Vypeen, Vallarpadom and Bolghatty islands to the Ernakulam mainland with three bridges. But the government did not have the financial resources to undertake the project. Though the islands were thickly populated, the traffic would not have justified a massive multi-bridge project. It was a reality that Vypeen bridges would not be financially viable. So funding by toll collection was ruled out. It had to be a self-supporting scheme by other means. Then, an idea was mooted to utilise land as a source for funds. This was an unprecedented way of funding a project. The proposal consisted of reclamation of 25 hectare from the waters adjacent to the mainland. It was proposed to sell this land at high prices to raise funds for the bridges.The location of the reclamation was very crucial. In the first place, the location had to be such that it yielded high unit prices. Second, the site of reclamation had to be in shallow waters so the cost of reclamation would be low. Third, as acquisition of land for putting up approaches would be costly in a place like Kochi, the reclamation had to be so located that it also served as an approach to the bridge link. All this dictated that the reclamation of land be adjacent to the mainland. It needed to be in such a location that once completed, it would become commercially important for the city. And it also needed to serve as the launching pad for the bridges from Ernakulam. So the location of the reclamation was selected judiciously.Details of the projectThe project had four major components.