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Sustainable tourism: a long way to go

Jinu Abraham
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Thrissur, the district that attracts the largest number of domestic tourists in the State, is yet to implement sustainable tourism practices in a big way.

Wonder of nature: The Athirappilly waterfalls.
Wonder of nature: The Athirappilly waterfalls.

The largest estuary system of the western coastal wetlands, Vembanad Kole, extends from Kuttanad in the south to the kole lands of Thrissur in the north.

Its extensive network of canals and lagoons fringed by coconut groves and paddy fields provide just the right setting for Thrissur's tourism sector to flourish.

Thrissur district has registered the largest inflow of domestic tourists in the State. In 2006-2007, 1.75 lakh domestic tourists visited Thrissur. A major contributor to this number is Thrissur Pooram.

UNESCO has adjudged Thrissur Pooram as “the most spectacular festival event on the planet”.

Thrissur has many scenic spots such as the Peechi dam, Athirappilly waterfalls, Anakkayam lake, and Vazhachal waterfalls.

Says Rajaji Mathew Thomas, MLA and chairman of the Destination Management Council and the Assembly Committee on Environment: “These places have not received their due in the tourism circuit. Plans are afoot to promote them as major tourist destinations.”

Thrissur's tourism potential is still unrealised. If prudent use of energy and water and proper waste management are the key to responsible tourism, Thrissur has to gird up its loins. Thrissur is claimed to be promoting ecologically sustainable tourism that promises focus on local culture, exposure to varied and exclusive avifauna, and the local population.

The claims fall flat on their face in the context of the allegedly improper waste management in places such as Guruvayur. According to a test conducted in Guruvayur by the Environmental Engineering Laboratory of the Department of Civil Engineering of the Thrissur Government Engineering College, the Most Probable Number (MPN) count for coliform bacteria in the temple tank comes around 1,100/100 ml and the Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) (3 days, 27 degree centigrade) remains at 22.8 mg/L.

Coliform includes genera that originate in faeces. In this case, the assay is intended to be an indicator of faecal contamination.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the permissible level of MPN for drinking water is 50 and for bathing water 500. The BOD permitted is 2 mg/L and 3 mg/L respectively.

“Human waste clogs two of the 14 km of backwaters in the Guruvayur stretch,” says C.F. George, a teacher and social activist. “It is pumped through an open canal that runs into the backwaters. Tourists, mostly pilgrims, are unaware of the environmental pollution in the temple town.”

Mr. Rajaji Mathew Thomas says the government has elaborate plans to promote the district as a cultural tourism spot, health tourism location and educational tourism hub. The market of tourism, he feels, needs to be tapped in a strategic manner.

Jinu Abraham

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