Despite the sea intruding into the Fort Kochi beach, the number of Chinese fishing nets dwindling and unchecked commercialisation taking over its once laid back streets, the heritage zone has managed to retain some of its old world charm because of the massive trees that literally shield the place from the sun and rain.

They are also home to a large number of birds and squirrels that add to the heritage town's ambience.

Many of the trees that date back to the days of the English are on the verge of collapsing because their bases have not been reinforced with soil nor have they been pruned of their excessive foliage.

The roots of many trees have grown over the paved footpath, some times tripping pedestrians.

Though a few attempts were made to protect trees in Vasco da Gama Square by building a thara (mound) around them, the granite slabs used to surface them have worn off.

“Short trees in the locale pose another problem – people often hurt their head after hitting the low-lying branches.

“We have seen tourists caught unawares by the dangling branches,” said Antony Kurisinkal, secretary of the International Forum for Cultural Heritage and Tradition (IFCHAT). He sought urgent steps to preserve the old trees and plant new ones.

Many streets and junctions in Fort Kochi that are frequented by tourists remain ill-lit despite several memoranda having been submitted to the Corporation of Cochin following a spate of incidents where women tourists were assaulted.

Neither have steps been taken to remove flex boards and other violations from the area where houses, shops and other buildings have to abide by heritage norms.

Civic agencies have also been unable to prevent encroachments, the stray dog menace and the entry of vehicles into pedestrian-only zones.

The area is yet to be declared as a garbage/spitting-free place, despite being a prominent tourist hub.

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