S. Anil Radhakrishnan
Varkala: The 80-foot-high laterite cliff facing the famed Papanasam beach here is facing the threat of extinction. Earth has caved in at several places posing threat to the life of tourists moving through the pathway bordering the cliff and residents staying in the northern side.
Fissures have also developed in several spots atop the cliff in the land bordering the two-and-a-half-metre wide pathway used by hundreds of tourists and locals to move from the hotels, paying guest accommodation and houses to the beach and helipad area.
The worst affected stretch is near Thiruvambady where 3.5 metres of land along with a portion of the newly laid pathway caved in. Palm trees that were standing in this narrow stretch got uprooted and had been thrown down along with huge chunks of earth.
A huge fissure has also developed adjacent to the place where the cliff has caved in and a huge chunk of earth is precariously hanging from the top of the cliff. Locals have put up temporary fence and have cordoned off the area to warn tourists. Walking near the helipad area and thro ugh the pathway has turned to be a big risk for the tourists and the locals as the fencing along the cliff has given way at many places. The narrow pathways fro m the top of the cliff to the beac hes are also in a bad shape. With streetlights and high-mast lights not glowing and stray dogs wandering all over the resort, the tourists and the locals prefer to stay indoors once night sets in.
The usual crowd of foreign tourists being witnessed in the resort during the monsoon period is lacking this year. Locals say the authorities have not bothered to ensure the safety of the tourists who arrive atop the cliff.
Chairman of Varkala Municipality K.R. Biju told The Hindu that unauthorised construction and piling works atop the cliff were the main reasons for the caving in and landslip. As per rule, only temporary construction can be undertaken two metres away from the pathway bordering the cliff. But Mr. Biju says it is seldom followed.
The caving in of the cliff and the steps needed to protect the cliff would be taken up in the municipal council meeting on July 14. The railways have set a model by using geo-textiles in several stretches prone to landslip. The municipality would approach Kerala Tourism seeking funds for the project, he said.
A proposal mooted couple of years ago to erect a permanent fencing using cacti and pineapple was turned down following the apprehension raised by locals that it would invite reptiles. Another proposal to use coir netting and sowing a special type of grass seeds in it to prevent further sliding of the cliff continues to remain in paper.