S. Anil Radhakrishnan

Asks government to allay fears of stakeholders

Delegation takes up issue with Chief Minister

Confusion over land acquisition

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The tourism industry has sought a detailed study on the social, economic and environmental impact of the proposed international container transhipment terminal (ICTT) at Vizhinjam.

The Confederation of Tourism Industry of Kerala has asked the government to carry out a an Environmental Impact Assessment to allay faers among stake-holders in the tourism industry.

A delegation of the confederation, comprising captains of the industry, took up the issue with Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan; Minister for Tourism and Home Kodiyeri Balakrishnan; Minister for Law and Ports M. Vijayakumar; and Minister for Finance T.M. Thomas Isaac on Saturday.

The industry fears that the development of the ICTT would break the backbone of tourism in Kovalam and lead to a spiralling effect on foreign tourist arrivals.

The stake-holders feel beach tourism activities would be hit if the proposed shipyard at Poovar, further south of Kovalam, materialises with Central assistance.

Confusion prevails among the tourism industry and the locals on the extent of land to be acquired in spite of the announcements made by the government and a meeting convened by the Chief Minister. With the government issuing notification for acquiring 1,088 hectares of land under Section 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act, those owning resorts in the Vizhinjam-Poovar belt are apprehensive.

The tourism industry provides direct employment to nearly 2,000 people and indirect employment to 10,000 in the area. Investments to the tune of Rs.275 crore have already been made on the Vizhinjam-Chowara stretch. Many entrepreneurs are exploring the potential of beach properties in adjoining districts.

“We want to make it clear that we are not against the development of the ICTT at Vizhinjam. Our demand is that the apprehensions of the industry should be addressed while setting up the ICTT. Port development and tourism activities should go hand in hand,” an office-bearer of the confederation told The Hindu.

As many as 24 resorts, including those in the heritage and star class categories, situated along the stretch from Vizhinjam to Chowara will lose access to the beach if the authorities go ahead with the project as per the port development master plan-2032. Fourteen resorts situated on the stretch will be badly affected. In the first phase, as many as eight resorts will have to be acquired.

The plan envisages building a huge breakwater, nearly four km. long, extending from the Vizhinjam fishing harbour to Chowara. An area of more than 200 hectares, 80 to 100 feet deep, is proposed to be reclaimed from the sea. The pocket beaches from Vizhinjam to Adimalathura will be destroyed as a result of massive reclamation. More than five to six km of the coastline will also be affected.

‘Utter confusion prevails over the land to be acquired and on the rail and road connectivity. We have not been taken into confidence by the government. Already, the dwindling room occupancy has become a matter of concern,” a stake-holder says.

Industry sources said beach tourism in the State is centred around Kovalam and Chowara where ‘sun and sand’ is the USP. The apprehension is that the arrivals of tan-seekers from Europe and chartered tourists from the U.K. will also be affected. The beach resort of Kovalam is the first halt of chartered tourists.

It is estimated that 1.48 lakh foreign tourists visited Kovalam last year and 50 per cent of them took extended tours to Kumarakom, Thakkady, Kumarakom and other destinations. Foreign exchange to the tune of Rs.1,200 crore was reportedly obtained from Kovalam.

The tourism authorities are yet to address the concerns of the industry. Kerala Tourism does not have the details about the project. A recent meeting convened by the Director of Tourism saw the stake-holders of the industry divided over the issue with one group saying that the ICTT would throw up more opportunities.