Resort project divides Kumbalanghi

IN TROUBLED WATERS: Serenity of Kumbalanghi is being disturbed with a row over the proposed construction activities. Photo: H.Vibhu

IN TROUBLED WATERS: Serenity of Kumbalanghi is being disturbed with a row over the proposed construction activities. Photo: H.Vibhu  

Staff Reporter

Collector calls for a detailed report on the project

KOCHI: The model tourism project at Kumbalanghi, besides being the first of its kind in the country, was marked by political consensus and participation of local public. This record is now broken with the political opinion split over a proposal to construct resorts at a Pokkali paddy field on the southern end of the panchayat.

The proposal by Coimbatore-based construction group was presented at the panchayat for approval last month, but was opposed on the grounds of being not eco-friendly. Another effort by the panchayat to take up the project for discussion triggered notes of dissent from the ruling front itself.

Now, District Collector A.P.M. Mohammed Hanish, who is the nodal officer of the tourism project, has called for a detailed report on the project. "No project affecting the delicate ecological balance of the area will be considered. The whole idea of the tourism project was to preserve and promote the rustic charm and ambience and not to infuse modernity," said Mr. Hanish.

The model tourism project is being implemented with assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Union and State Governments. The present proposal was to build 60-odd cottages jutting into the water body, which is being used for prawn farming.

"The project was not harmful for the ecology of the land. But the proposal was not discussed in a transparent manner, which created the confusion. Similar projects were successfully implemented at Kumarakom and Pathiramanal in Alappuzha," said K.V. Thomas, MLA, who belongs to the village. The model tourism village project was taken up during his tenure as Minister for Tourism.

The local panchayat president said that opposition to the proposal would amount to stagnation of development of the area. "The panchayat has so far approved only the construction. Any construction on the water body will be approved only after evolving a consensus. If we fail to reach a consensus, an all-party meeting will be convened to explain the situation," said John Pazheri, panchayat president.

"The opposition is not against development, but against filling up paddy fields. Kudumbasree had done Pokkali farming there till last season and this will be lost with the construction work," said Sheeba Supri, panchayat member, who expressed dissent over the proposal. Those associated with the Kumbalanghi Model Tourism Village project complained that they had no idea about the proposal. "I was not consulted, as it was while an earlier proposal for constructing resorts was made. We will stick to the restrictions that no building beyond a stipulated height should be approved in the village, no paddy field should be levelled and no water body should be touched," said K. Murali Menon, coordinator of the project.

The panchayat should take a decision after keeping long-term prospects of the model tourism village project in mind. "It has been accepted that home-stays should be promoted so that local public will be beneficiaries of the tourism drive. The model tourism project does not support big hotels or resorts to be established in the village. Also, the construction activities in the village does not fall under the norms of Kerala Building Rules, as it is a special zone," said M.P. Sivadathan, chairman of the Kumbalanghi Model Tourism Village Development Society.

With the opinion divided and either side sticking to their stands, it will take some time for the panchayat to evolve a consensus. The end result would be slowing down the tourism project, which has already lost some of its initial enthusiasm.

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