New guest houses and tree houses to be set up in the picturesque hills
Situated 80 km from Tiruchi, at 1,200 metres above the sea level, Pachamalai will soon become an ideal weekend destination.
Blessed with a pleasant climate with temperatures ranging from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius and home to rare plant species, the hills presents a picturesque landscape with natural forests, agricultural lands, hill tops, ridges, and valleys.
The hills are also home to the ‘Malayali’ tribe, a Tamil-speaking community with a population of 7,000. Periapakkalam and Korayaru waterfalls, along with some viewpoints, are a major attraction.
Chief Minister Jayalalithaa recently announced a Rs. 2.30-crore the community based eco-tourism development project in the hills. It is aimed at socio-economic uplift of local communities by creating community assets and facilities and group entrepreneurship programmes through the funds generated from eco-tourism.
According to N. Sathish, District Forest Officer, development would be at two levels — infrastructure and culture-based tourism. Plans are on to improve accommodation and catering and also improve facilities at the places of interest.
The Forest Department will set up new guest houses and tree houses, beautify natural walking trails, promote traditional therukoothu by Malayali tribe, and establish an eco medicinal park. Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs), instead of private tour operators, would be formed for running the project by employing interested people from 54 villages in three Panchayats — Thenparanadu, Vallanadu, and Kombainadu.
Eco-tourism is targeted at nature and wildlife enthusiasts, who look for a break from the hustle and bustle of a city. They can enjoy natural walking trails which will have boards explaining the significance of trees, birds, and other existent biodiversity.
Foreign tourists will be allowed to take bullock cart rides.
“Unlike usual tourism, eco-tourism will cause zero to minimal damage to forest areas.
“Some people have protested against this project by saying that this will affect the tradition and habitat of local people, but they are mistaken.
“This project is aimed at improving the living standard of the local people,” said Mr. Sathish.
Nodal officers and range officers would only supervise and the local people would maintain the area. Bookings would be done online through a separate website, giving no chance for private operators to enter the scene, said Mr. Sathish.
“It has been planned to complete the eco-tourism package by March 2014, so as to facilitate full-fledged tourism from May 2014,” he added.