Alappuzha's tourism sector will from now on have an added attraction apart from its houseboats and backwaters, one that will revolve on the heritage value of the quaint little coastal town, known across the globe as Venice of the East.

Thursday's State Cabinet approval for a Rs.50-lakh project, a continuation of a proposal made in this year's budget, closely follows President Pratibha Patil's proposal, during her visit to the Nehru trophy boat race here recently, for a scientifically drafted master plan for the development of sustainable tourism in Alappuzha.

The State government's project for Alappuzha, Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac told The Hindu on the phone, will be on the lines of the Rs.140-crore Muziris Heritage Project (MHP) spread over Thrissur and Ernakulam districts, though in a smaller scale. This is part of four similar projects. The ongoing Muziris project is the first one, Thalassery the second, Alappuzha the third, and the fourth in line is Wayanad.

Preservation and conservation of existing heritage buildings, a regular maintenance action plan for the historic canals here, a link between the backwaters of Kuttanad and the canals, showcasing of handicrafts, Alappuzha's age-old coir factories and so on will be part of the project.

The project report will be ready in four or five months, Dr. Isaac says, adding that the international acclaim the Muziris project has won is an inspiration for the Alappuzha project.

Alappuzha, though not on the scale of several other spots in the State, has plenty to claim as heritage. The now defunct Alappuzha port, which is about to be developed into a marina, was the first commercial port in the princely State of Travancore. It was established by Raja Kesavadas, the then Dewan of Travancore. Situated a stone's throw away from the 150-plus-year-old sea pier, which is unfortunately on its last legs, is the Alappuzha lighthouse, the first on the western coast of the country. A coir heritage that owes a lot to factories and people such as William Goodacre, Aspinwal & Co., Darragh & Smail, etc, is also part of the heritage here.

With the President herself expressing an interest in the development of the tourism potential of Alappuzha, following up her speech here with a recent letter to the Centre, the Alappuzha heritage project, according to Tourism Department officials here, is likely to be propped up with Central funds as well.

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