Tourist spots in the State which are under the control of the Horticulture Department will be raised to international standards, said Agriculture Minister Veerapandi S. Arumugham.

Inaugurating the 114th Annual Floral Carnival (AFC) at the Government Botanical Garden (GBG) here on Friday, he said that in keeping with the move the GBG will be improved at a cost of Rs. 21.29 crore.

Stating that the Government Rose Garden (GRG) here will also be made more attractive at a cost of Rs. 13.70 crore, he said that the Sim's Park in Coonoor would be beautified by spending Rs. 13.73 crore.

Pointing out that the objective was to attract more tourists, he said that a botanical garden of global standard was in the process of being created along the Cathedral Road in Chennai at an estimated cost of Rs. 7.86 crore. A garden will come up at Yercaud at a cost of Rs. 11 crore.

Adverting to a proposal to construct a cultural centre here, he said that a piece of land extending over about 85 cents belonging to the Agricultural Engineering Department had been handed over to the administration.

Referring to the significance of the Nilgiris district, Mr. Arumugham said that it was the first biosphere reserve and also contributed 30 per cent to the State's power grid.

The Khadi Board Minister, K. Ramachandran, said that the role of the Horticulture Department in ensuring the economic well-being of the Nilgiris was significant.

Listing the development schemes implemented here, he said that more were on the anvil.

The Commissioner, Agricultural Production, Nandakishore, who presided, said that to cope with the problems relating to labour shortage a sum of Rs. 60 crore had been set aside for mechanisation.

The Nilgiris Collector, Archana Patnaik, said that this year's AFC featured exhibits of current interest.

The Ooty MLA, B. Gopalan, said that the economy of the district was tourism dependent.

The Coonoor MLA, A. Soundarapandian and the Chairman,Udhagamandalam Municipal Council, R. Rajendran also spoke.

The Director of Horticulture, B. Chandramohan, welcomed the gathering.

The Joint Director of Horticulture, C. Isravel, proposed a vote of thanks.