The new Eco Tourism Policy of Tamil Nadu, made public by the Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on June 7, promises to provide a new dimension to tourism in the Temple City.

The 50-page document, which envisages major role for local communities in promoting their localities, will focus on creating environmental awareness among all age groups, especially youth.

The Department of Tourism will work with the Forest Department in identifying a shelf of eco tourism projects. A nine-member official committee, headed by Chief Secretary, will be formed to monitor the implementation and coordinate various stakeholder agencies.

Of particular importance is that the policy would accord priority to develop places closer to existing popular destinations and lesser-known eco tourist spots so that infrastructure development will be kept at bare minimum.

Two places that readily fit the bill are the Kutladampatti Waterfalls, located about 40 kilometres near Vadipatti in the district, and Alagarkoil, about 20 km from here.

A reserve area under the Forests Department, the Kutladampatti Waterfalls is located in a secluded location of the national highway to Dindigul. Harbouring tonnes of potential, the picturesque location can become a major site provided a few amenities are ensured.

A tourism stakeholder in the city says the place needs a watchtower for security reasons as it is an isolated spot. Dressing rooms and other basic amenities should also come up.

K.P. Bharathi, programme leader, Tourism for Development division, Dhan Foundation, says the usual perception of eco-tourism need not remain confined to the much stereotyped hill stations and beaches. The serene village atmosphere, its rich culture, heritage and undisturbed nature could also be packaged well.

Madurai has many places such as Thenkarai and Tiruvedagam near Sholavandhan which would attract foreign tourists.

The nine places having Jain monuments in the district can also be promoted well as they are all located in calm locations.

“Local people participation is a must for sustainable development of tourism in these areas as they have to show interest to make the project a success,” he adds.

K. Muralidharan, GM, GRT Regency Hotel, and a member of Travel Club, says the new policy can help develop villages as ideal eco-tourism destinations. However, infrastructure such as good accessible roads, conveyance and parking facilities have to come up first.

“Madurai and the surrounding regions stand to benefit from this policy. Even local residents can come to know of hitherto unknown places and visit them. Lesser known tourist spots can now be brought under the spotlight,” he says.

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