Heritage zones in the city are unkempt and ill-maintained even as date of much-awaited visit of Prince Charles and Camilla nears
Mattancherry and Fort Kochi heritage zones have not yet woken up to the high-profile visit of Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla. The royal couple will be in the city on November 11.
Though the VVIP visit is to be accorded a reception fit for a head of State, stakeholders in the tourism sector, PWD, and civic agencies are yet to spruce up the heritage zones in west Kochi. “Unless damaged roads and footpaths in the two zones are repaired, garbage cleared, dangling cables removed, and encroachers evicted, it might not exactly be a red carpet welcome for the royal couple,” a senior official of Kerala Tourism said. At the eleventh hour, Kerala Tourism has directed Ernakulam District Tourism Promotion Council, the Heritage Conservation Society, and other stakeholders to tidy the two heritage zones in a week.
In Mattancherry, the royal couple is scheduled to visit the Jewish synagogue — considered one of the oldest synagogues in the Commonwealth — and the adjacent Dutch Palace, maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. Kerala Tourism will host an exclusive demonstration of Kathakali and Kalaripayattu for the couple here.
Though streets in the Mattancherry heritage zone are cleaner than those in Fort Kochi, the road leading from the sub jail to the Dutch Palace is in ruins. The synagogue is being decked out for the stately guests.
“The PWD had promised to tar all damaged roads within the heritage zone area before the visit. Government departments too vowed to keep utilities maintained by them in order,” said an official, who has a key role in organising the visit.
The Fort Kochi heritage zone is unkempt and ill-maintained. Temporary shacks dot the beach front and streets. Vendors sell goods ranging from curios and soft drinks to raw fish. “The mess here could be a reason why the couple is not keen on visiting Fort Kochi, which attracts more tourists than any other locale in central Kerala. The roads should have been repaired before the rains; this was not done. All these show the lack of cohesion among Kerala Tourism, Ernakulam District Tourism Promotion Council and Fort Kochi Heritage Conservation Society,” sources said.
A 30-metre-long footpath in front of Bastion Bungalow best describes the irresponsibility of tourism stakeholders. There are two ditches, broken concrete slabs, and an overgrowth of weeds on the footpath, which is packed with vehicles. To make matters worse, the State Archaeology Department has erected a huge flex board of the historic monument. The VVIPs are also expected to visit St. Francis Church, where Vasco Da Gama was first buried, and take a look at the famed Chinese nets, which are still in use on the adjacent beach. In Kochi, the couple might visit a folklore museum in Thevara, the Ernakulam General Hospital, and interact with civic body heads. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are also slated to visit Kumarakom and the Vazhachal elephant corridor, where they will interact with forest department officials. On November 14, they will fly to Colombo. The royal visit coincides with the peak tourist season, when visitors make a beeline for popular destinations in Kerala.