The forest department has launched a community-based ecotourism programme in Pachamalai Hills at an estimated cost of Rs. 2.30 crore.

The scenic hillock with forests, hilltops, ridges and valleys was also home to the culturally-rich ethnic Malayali community that resides atop the hill.

The tourism programme aims at improving the socio-economic condition of the local population by creating community assets and facilities besides group entrepreneurship programmes.

Broadly divided into eight categories, the programme relates to work on improving amenities at Koraiyar and Periyapakkalam waterfalls (Rs. 21 lakh), setting up of watchtowers (Rs. 20 lakh), and creation of eco-parks (Rs. 15 lakh), said N. Satish, District Forest Officer, told presspersons here on Tuesday.

The department would spend Rs. 1.35 crore for a slew of facilities for the tourists. The work included setting up of tree-top model trekking huts (Rs. 60 lakh), dormitory, and kitchen and additional rooms in the existing rest house at Top Segattupatti (Rs. 20 lakh each). A landscaping trekking shed would also be set up at an expenditure of Rs. 5 lakh. A British-era guest house at Top Sengattupatti would be improved at a cost of Rs. 10 lakh.

A sum of Rs. 24 lakh has been allotted for the purchase of eco-tourism kits such as binoculars, trekking bags, vehicle for transporting tourists, furniture, and beds. About Rs. 5.50 lakh, earmarked for cultural tourism, would be utilised for buying bullock carts and horse carts. A website on eco-tourism would also be created, he said.

The forest department would also impart training to guides.