Though Fort Kochi RDO has issued orders to remove encroachers, little has been done so far

Fort Kochi – once a much-sought after destination by foreign tourists — is slowly becoming another Kovalam.

The condition of the heritage locale that saw footprints of Portuguese, Dutch and British has turned from bad to worse, despite the District Administration promising to evict encroachers in anticipation of Christmas-New Year peak tourist season. Encroachers and unscrupulous vendors are thronging the locale, hampering a proper view of the beach. This has turned what was once a preferred destination for discerning tourists, into a chaotic locale.

“The once silent and clean locale has fallen into the hands of organised encroachers who litter the area. This could be among the reasons why Prince Charles, who visited Mattanchery in early November, decided against visiting Fort Kochi, which is the earliest European settlement in India. Sadly, Kerala Tourism, DTPC and Fort Kochi Heritage Conservation Society are doing nothing to evict encroachers, enforce heritage norms and tidy the place,” said a tour guide.

The encroachers and rule violators thrive in front of the police station and the Kochi Corporation’s regional office. “At stake is the livelihood and prestige of hundreds of local residents who once took pride in their home town and hewed out shops and home stays in a portion of their house,” said a home stay owner in Princess Street.

They fear that the locale will soon become a haven for budget travellers, like Kovalam, unless government stakeholders, local residents and right-thinking entrepreneurs get into damage-control mode.

With crass commercialization taking over the locale, discerning tourists are shunning the place. On Sunday, it was rather tough to locate foreign tourists in the beach and heritage streets – something which was uncommon during the period in previous years.

Till recently, encroachers thrived in the core heritage zone and a few open spaces. This tourist season, they have fanned out to roads that lead to Fort Kochi. Almost all footpaths in the locality are taken over by vendors. Shops and hotels have put up display boards across footpaths. Pedestrians are forced to walk on narrow roads. Though Fort Kochi RDO has issued orders to remove encroachers, little has been done. This year, vendors have dared to venture into the beach walkway too.

The sole pay and use toilet in the area, located beside Parade Ground, mirrors what Fort Kochi is now.

Organisers of Cochin Carnival are among those who expressed concern over the mess that Fort Kochi has become. The celebrations are set to commence from December 8. “Organised goons have taken over many areas of the heritage town and they will destroy it unless government and well-meaning people step in. Encroachers hamper smooth progress of the carnival rally and must be removed. Most food stalls do not have mandatory licence and a disaster looms large since water is sourced from a dirty well in the area,” said Josey P J, advisor to the carnival committee.

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