Tourism people in the Vizhinjam-Kovalam region are perturbed by the impact the proposed Vizhinjam port may have on their burgeoning industry.
They have recently met Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to request the government not to “kill the goose that lays the golden egg” while going after the “foolish” urge to implement what is being touted as a “dream project.”
The South Kerala Hoteliers’ Forum (SKHF), representing the interests of the tourism industry in the area, told the Chief Minister that the coming of the port would mean the immediate closure of 31 big and small tourist resorts stretching from Vizhinjam to Adimalathura 2.3 km away.
Together, these resorts have 832 rooms and they employ nearly 3,000 people directly. The breakwater structures to be constructed for the shipping channel would stretch from Vizhinjam to even beyond Adimalathura, parallel to the coast.
The forum, in their representation, said the port would have a destructive impact on the tourism in Kovalam also. Kerala Tourism is known all over the world for the beauty that is Kovalam Beach, which is just a couple of kilometres to the north of Vizhinjam.
Quoting experts, the forum said the dynamics of the sea currents along the southern stretch of the Kerala coast was such that there would be erosion of the coast to the north of any breakwater constructed into the sea and accretion of sand along the stretch lying to the south. This is the experience noticed in the case of all the minor breakwaters constructed along the south Kerala coast. So Kovalam coast, lying immediately to the north of the proposed port, might experience erosion. Further, oil spills from the ships visiting the port would reach the sea off the nearby Kovalam coast spoiling the place for sunbathing and swimming.
“Can you imagine Kerala tourism without Kovalam,” the forum asked. There are more than 150 hotels, resorts and home stay facilities with a total of 2,750 rooms in Kovalam, directly employing more than 10,000 people. The total market value of established tourism infrastructure in south Kerala will come to more than Rs.20,000 crore, according the forum’s assessment.
The forum said it did not believe the contention of the supporters of the port project that a cruise liner terminal that would come with the project would increase the flow of tourists to Kovalam. Once the natural ambience was gone, tourists would keep away from the place, the forum feared.
It said that a port to be constructed at an estimated cost of more than Rs.4,010 crore, destroying the Kerala prime tourist destination where the present infrastructure to receive visitors had more than four times that amount as its market worth, made no business sense.
The forum also drew the attention of the government to the point that the port, according to the official assessment itself, would generate only around 550 jobs directly, which is less than 5 per cent of the jobs it would destroy in the tourism sector if this area were to vanish from the tourism map. This area accounts for nearly 30 per cent of the total revenue of more than Rs.19,000 crore (according to the 2011 official data) generated by the tourism industry in the State.