The tourist season in Kerala has begun. But, in Fort Kochi — one of the most popular tourist spots in Kerala — street dogs outnumber foreign tourists.
After an hour’s walk through the streets of the heritage locale and the beach front, only four foreign tourists could be spotted, while street dogs, some with injuries on their bodies, are aplenty.
The condition of the beach — its incomplete walkway, footpaths, park, playgrounds — is dismal, in what is considered to be the earliest European settlement in India that still has clear footprints of Portuguese, Dutch and English architecture.
Though domestic tourists seem to be putting up with the chaos and dirt in the area, plastic bottles, thermocol, and ice cream cups that little the beach and heritage streets are a turn-off for foreigners.
Elina from Australia said she was shocked to see even elderly people littering the streets. “I came here to relax for a few days. Kerala is safer than other States and people are generally friendly. But, infrastructure, cleanliness and garbage management have much to catch up with. Kerala has a beautiful countryside, but this is spoilt by heaps of trash. Back home, we are taught from early childhood to respect nature and ensure the cleanliness of public places.” She also expressed annoyance at people staring at guests – especially foreign tourists.
Domestic tourists too have their share of woes. Anwar Hussain from New Delhi demanded proper pay-and-use toilets in the historic locale, which attracts most number of tourists in central Kerala. “The footpaths are reasonably wide, but uneven and heavily encroached upon by vendors and haphazardly-parked vehicles,” he said.
Vendors selling fish, ice cream etc., are mostly responsible for dirtying the premises, but little action has been taken. They also block a view of the beach and the Chinese fishing nets.
There are also complaints of criminals operating under the cover provided by rickety stalls.
The Parade Ground and Veli Ground in the area are weed-infested, leaving little space for sports lovers.
Despite the sad state of affairs and a dip in tourist arrivals, Kerala Tourism, Fort Kochi Heritage Conservation Society, entrepreneurs, district administration, Kochi Corporation and the police have not got into damage control mode.
A senior official of Kerala Tourism said a slew of projects worth Rs. 10 crore were in the pipeline to change the face of the locale. “But there is inordinate delay in implementing them,” the official said.
A project worth Rs 4.87 crore was finalised in June to renovate the park, build an entrance plaza, develop heritage streets and augment tourism infrastructure in Fort Kochi. The work, however, is yet to take off despite June 2014 being the deadline for the project.