KERALA

Model tourism village suffers a setback

Staff Reporter

KOCHI: The Kumbalanghi grama panchayat, the first model tourism village in the entire country, has suffered a setback when it was denied the Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP) for sanitation and cleanliness.

The Ministry of Rural Development instituted the award in 2004-05 under the Total Sanitation Campaign to promote sanitation in rural areas.

Ironically, Kumbalanghi was also the only panchayat out of the 88 panchayats in the district yet to be qualified for the NGP. While 81 panchayats had been found eligible for the award between 2006 and 08, the remaining seven panchayats applied for the recognition this year.

The verification team from the Central government that visited all the seven panchayats in late August found Alangad, Mulavukad, Elamkunnapuzha, Kuttampuzha, Keerampara, and Thrikkakkara grama panchayats eligible for the recognition, Vinodini, district coordinator, Sanitary Mission, said.

The team cited highly polluted canals and other water bodies in the area and poor drainage for turning down the application of the Kumbalanghi panchayat. John Pazheri, panchayat president, is, however, furious at the decision and questions the motive of the decision.

‘Intentional’

He alleged that the decision was “intentional” hinting that it was fuelled by apprehension at the growing status of Kumbalanghi in the tourism arena.

“I challenge them to prove that our panchayat doesn’t have the required sanitation standards that made other panchayats in the district eligible for the award,” Mr. Pazheri said.

The Kumbalanghi panchayat, he said, was the only one in the district to distribute 600 biogas plants to households and 165 eco-friendly toilets. There was virtually no home without toilets, he said. He charged that the verifying team made the assessment in a trivial way by randomly questioning the people passing on the road.

He said that the panchayat had lodged a complaint and asked for re-verification. Another team was expected to visit the panchayat on October 6, Mr. Pazheri said.