Madurai

Will Sirumalai be made a tourism destination?

A view of Sirumalai hills near Dindigul on Sunday.

A view of Sirumalai hills near Dindigul on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: G_KARTHIKEYAN

Despite repeated proposals, no project has taken off till date

Known for its lush green slopes and a salubrious weather, the Sirumalai hills is one of the easy-to-reach summer getaways for people in Madurai and Dindigul districts. Situated just about 90 km from Madurai and 40 km from Dindigul, it's preferred by people for a quick escape from the heat of the plains.

Rich in horticulture, bananas, jackfruit and lemons grown in Sirumalai also make it a famous pocket. There's even a 600-acre horticulture sapling farm on the hill known as Palapannai.

Spread over 60,000 acres, the hill has a majority of patta farmlands, interspersed with forest land. It's also home to a variety of birds and animals including Indian Gaur, Sambhar deer etc.

Despite all these merits and repeated proposals to make it a tourism destination, no project has taken off till date and Sirumalai continues to be a sleepy hill hamlet.

“In 1998, a proposal to build an artificial park atop the hill at a cost of ₹10 lakh was sent to the then DMK Government. The tourism department also conducted a summer festival for two years, back then. But somehow, the project was put on the back-burner,” said T. Nedunchezhian, forest rights committee chairman, Sirumalai.

One main reason is said to be unwillingness of the people living on the hill to make it a tourist destination. “Sirumalai is an isolated pocket and not a contiguous hill range, unlike Kodaikanal and hence, cannot handle a huge influx of tourism. The main drawback is that there's only one motor-able road to ascend and descend the hill. That's also a single road that hasn't been widened in ages. If there's a traffic jam or disaster on the hill, evacuation will become a problem. In 2005 floods, the road to Sirumalai caved in and the hamlets on the hill were cut off for over 10 days,” said V. Kumaran, a resident and farmer.

Another constraint is water. Consecutive drought has lead to water shortage on the hill, with even locals finding less water for drinking and irrigation. “People from the plains are buying lands, building bungalows and drilling bore wells in Sirumalai. We, the locals protested against bore wells on the hill, as it may deplete natural wealth. Tourism boom may only lead to depletion of natural beauty and resources of Sirumalai,” added Nedunchezhiyan.

However, Sribalamurugan, holding additional charge as District Tourism Officer, Dindigul, said, “A fresh proposal from Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation has been sent to the Government through the collector to construct basic amenities like toilets, parking space, canteen and snacks bar and an accommodation facility atop Sirumalai to develop it more than a one-day destination. However, funds are awaited and after that only any project can take off.”

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 12:36:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/will-sirumalai-be-made-a-tourism-destination/article28235788.ece

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