R. Ilangovan

YERCAUD: The raging row over the Hogenakkal Drinking Water Project between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has hit the arrival of tourists to Yercaud.

Since the eruption of controversy, the flow of tourists from Karnataka has trickled down to insignificant numbers, leaving hoteliers and others to languish in agony and despair.

The Yercaud resort, which used to be teeming with tourists, wears a deserted look even in the week-ends.

“We usually receive a healthy flow of tourists from Karnataka who stay here for a minimum of 3 to 4 days to enjoy the salubrious climate,” says a manager of a leading hotel in the hill station.

The occupancy, which should have been 100 per cent, has fallen to 20 per cent during this week-end. Similarly the hawkers and others who eke out to their livelihood from tourism have other sordid tales to tell. “I use to sell 250 baked sweet corns on a single day during the season. But it is hard to sell even 50 today,” says a corn seller at Pagoda Point, a major tourist spot.

A senior official in Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation, which operates boats on the picturesque Yercaud lake, says that nearly 75 per cent of his patrons, who are from Karnataka, have failed to turn up. “In fact they love to frequent the Boat House, where we have rowing and pedal boats to their liking.”

The flow of tourists to “poor man’s Ooty” has been on the increase in recent times. During 2001, the annual inflow was 2.34 lakh. It was 2.63 lakh in 2003 and 2.84 lakh in 2004. Last year it recorded an all-time high of 2.91 lakh. A major share is from Karnataka followed by Kerala, says a senior official.

The district administration is expected to register a record tourists’ arrival this year.