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Tourists leave legacy of litter

K. Raju
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Kodaikanal braces for clean-up drive

ECO-UNFRIENDLY:Tourists flock to Bryant Park.— PHOTO: G. KARTHIKEYAN.
ECO-UNFRIENDLY:Tourists flock to Bryant Park.— PHOTO: G. KARTHIKEYAN.

The two-day flower show held at Bryant Park, as part of the 10-day summer festival, was a magnet for tourists. And while the authorities were busy congratulating themselves over record tourist arrivals to Kodaikanal (over 1.6 lakh), the locals had a different story to tell.

The seamy side of tourism becomes apparent along the route to Green Valley View and Pillar Rock from Kodaikanal town, with tourist litter fouling the landscape. Mounds of plastic, garbage and empty liquor bottles are visible along the route. “Kodaikanal is steadily losing its charm, thanks to the habits and lax supervision over domestic tourists coming in large numbers,” complained Sarada, a teacher in a local school. While floral displays, live music shows and exhibitions mark the flower show at Bryant Park, authorities struggle to cope with the damage wrought on the environment by visitors during the festival season. Foreign tourist arrivals are concentrated in the months of August and September, according to tourism sources

The forest department has fenced entry points to environmentally sensitive zones such as the Guna Caves and Suicide Point (renamed Green Valley View) to restrict the movement of tourists. The lack of surveillance has resulted in the 60-km long Ghat Road leading to the hill station turning into a haven for tourists to consume liquor by the wayside. “Empty bottles, plastic bags and left-over food are thrown on the road, posing a danger to animals and birds,” says A. Michael, an environmentalist who runs a local NGO.

The Kodaikanal Municipality has been struggling to keep tourist spots clean, according to a municipal official. “As a temporary measure, we have directed sanitary workers to clean the primary roads throughout the day. Keeping the surroundings clean is more important than punishing violators,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

The official claimed the ban on the use of plastic bags was producing results, with roadside vendors selling non-vegetarian food, fruits and chocolates, and eucalyptus oil within the town limit using paper bags. Community participation and sensitising tourists are key to solving the problem, the official emphasised.

The summer festival is slated to wind up on May 28. Kodaikanal is bracing for a long and hectic clean-up in the aftermath.

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