Creation of a backwater circuit in the State, including the Rs.400-crore comprehensive development of these waterbodies in Alappuzha, has run into rough weather as the Union government has allocated only a meagre amount for the Centrally funded project's Rs.50-crore first phase.

An official communication from the Union Tourism Ministry that only Rs.5 crore has been allocated and not Rs.50 crore as announced has put the Kerala Tourism in a fix, leaving it wondering whether to kick off the work.

Official sources said the Union Ministry had informed Kerala Tourism that it was by ‘mistake' that a Rs.50-crore allocation was announced, and that only Rs.5 crore could be given as it had been included in tourist circuit development.

Time frame

Work on the first phase, including development of the comprehensive circuit, was to be completed in two years.

Houseboat terminals, rest points, night-halt centres to provide a new experience of culture and shopping to tourists, and new routes for houseboats were proposed. The department had identified the places for night halts and was all set to launch the project that would have changed the face of Alappuzha.

As the State does not have the resources to take up the development of the backwaters on its own, Kerala Tourism has decided to take up the issue with the Union Tourism Ministry and seek an increase in the allocation.

The sources said the issue would be taken up by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy during his visit to New Delhi this month.

No proper place

Hundreds of houseboats taking tourists on cruises now have no fixed place to anchor at night and cannot offer any entertainment to the tourists after sunset as they are led to narrow canals in deserted locales.

It had been announced that new facilities to come up along the backwaters would be developed on a public-private partnership (PPP) mode.

Under the project, the development of tourist spots from Aroor to Kayamkulam will benefit 58 panchayats and three municipalities.

Routes

The master plan suggests south and north Vembanad and certain areas along the Pampa at Kayamkulam and Kuttanad as routes for the houseboats that have become the mascot of the Kerala Tourism.

Concerns over some bridges at Kidangara, Vattakayal, and Pulinkunnu obstructing the movement of the boats will be addressed.

Provisions will be made for waste management with focus on promoting eco-friendly tourism.

The tourism authorities have sought the help of local MP and Union Minister of State for Power K.C. Venugopal.

Sources said the department had prepared a note for getting an enhanced allocation and had forwarded it to higher-ups.