KERALA

Funds crunch affects upkeep of Malampuzha Garden

HUB OF TOURISTS: The Malampuzha dam and garden in Palakkad. Photo: K.K. Mustafah  

G. Prabhakaran

PALAKKAD: The Water Resources Department has not allocated maintenance fund for the Malampuzha Garden in its last two annual budgets, according to M.O. Joy, Executive Engineer of Malampuzha Irrigation Division.

The garden, which attracts over 15-lakh visitors annually, is now in a state of neglect. Maintenance is poor because of want of funds.

The department controls the 86-acre garden and the Malampuzha Tourism Centre. The Tourism Department has also not provided funds for the maintenance of this prime tourism centre.

The Water Resources Department has cut down the number of staff for the daily maintenance of the garden from 90 to 69 (49 permanent and 20 daily-wage workers).

Mr. Joy told the The Hindu that the monthly minimum maintenance charge of the garden came to Rs. 2.5 lakhs and power bill Rs. 1.5 lakhs.

The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) charged the commercial electrical tariff of Rs. 7.5 a unit. The power utility generated 2.5 MW of power from the mini-hydel project using water from the dam. But no royalty was paid for it or concession given in power tariff for the maintenance of the garden and the dam area, he said.

Mr. Joy said the garden had got 22 parks, each of which needed two or three workers for daily upkeep. But the strength of the maintenance staff was cut every year.

He said renovation of the Children's Park, the Japanese Park and so on were undertaken with funds made available by the District Tourism Promotion Council, collected by way of entry fees: Rs. 5 for adults and Rs. 3 for children aged above five. The collection was not enough for maintenance or paying the power bill.

He said the 50-year-old garden needed major reconstruction and modernisation. A Rs. 4-crore scheme, titled Malampuzha Dam Golden Jubilee Proposal, was submitted to the State Government for modernising and renovating the garden and tourism complex months ago, but no action had been taken.

The proposal included a new bus stand complex and tourist facilities, such as cloak room, toilets, communication centre, ATM centre, foreign exchange centre, souvenir shop, two-star rooftop restaurant, dormitory, VIP rooms, and so on, estimated at Rs. 2 crores.

A sum of Rs. 25 lakhs was estimated for setting up a musical fountain and Rs. 12 lakhs for constructing a mini 3-D theatre.

The proposal also included Rs. 15 lakhs for beautification and lighting of Seat Road and Mango Plantation Road up to Rock Garden premises and Rs. 10 lakhs for painting and illuminating the dam.

A Rs. 20-lakh scheme was proposed for beautification of the pavilion of all existing roads, footpath, installation of waste bins, sewage plants, and so on. The proposal also included a Rs. 25-lakh scheme for setting up a new children's' garden and Rs. 19 lakhs for renovating the electrical installation of the garden.