TAMIL NADU

Nanguneri SEZ, river-linking project are poll issues again

Tourism potential lies untapped; migration of youth continues

When the then Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi laid the foundation stone for Nanguneri Special Economic Zone on February 11, 2001, in the presence of the then Union Minister Murasoli Maran, it was expected that the hefty industrial investments to be made in the SEZ and the subsequent employment opportunities to be provided by the new industrial houses would change the face of this ‘rain shadow region’ of the district for ever.

But, even after 15 years, nothing has changed; migration of skilled and unskilled youth from Nanguneri taluk to greener pastures in Tirupur, Coimbatore, Chennai and even Mumbai continues even today as the SEZ has failed to attract industrial investments as anticipated, owing to a range of reasons, including recession.

Naturally, Nanguneri SEZ has become a ‘poll issue’ once again, and political parties have started making tall promises on invigorating the “bedridden SEZ” and giving employment to ‘sons of soil’ even as the people are looking at it with a wry smile.

The ruling AIADMK has fielded M. Vijayakumar, son of former MLA of Nanguneri S. Manickaraj, for the May 16 election and leading businessman and former MLA of this segment H. Vasanthakumar of the Congress takes his on.

After delimitation, this constituency houses more number Thevar and Nadar voters while Ervadi and Kalakkad areas have a sizable number of Muslim voters, who are very much upset with the neglect of their constituency for the past several decades.

If Tamirabharani– Karumaeniyar– Nambiyar linking scheme, which was initiated by the DMK government to take surplus water of the Tamirabharani to the dry regions of Nanguneri, Thisaiyanvilai and Sattankulam areas by digging 73 km-long channel, had been implemented, it could have arrested the migration to some extent as this ambitious scheme would have kept alive farming operations in the eastern parts of the constituency.

Since this mega project has almost been abandoned, the project cost has escalated from Rs. 369 crore to Rs. 872 crore due to the delay. The DMK’s poll promise of reviving the scheme will certainly get votes for Mr. Vasanthakumar, who enjoys a good support amidst all sections of people.

With Koonthankulam bird sanctuary, Nanguneri Vanamamalai Perumal Temple and Tirukkurungudi Sri Azhagiyanambirayar Temple, Thalaiyanai at Kalakkad, Thengaiuruli Falls, Vadakku Pachchaiyar and Kodumudiyar dams, Sengaltheri and Karumandi Amman Temple, this region could have been converted into an important tourist destination.

Despite having excellent potential for tourism that is capable of providing direct and indirect employment to a few thousand people, no government has taken any effort to showcase Nanguneri’s tourism potential and no adequate infrastructure has been created in these spots.

Though farmers of this region largely cultivate banana on a few thousands of acres from Kalakkad to Tirukkurungudi, the agriculturists have to sell their produce immediately to the traders from Kerala who mostly form a cartel to buy banana at the rate fixed by them.

If cold storage facility is established, the farmers can keep their produce for a while and sell it for a better price.

Despite appeals from the banana growers in this connection, the government is in no mood to establish cold storage facility here.

While Mr. Vasanthakumar believes that the connecting roads laid to remote villages, channels desilted during his tenure as MLA and the “anti-incumbency wave” would tilt the election outcome in his favour, Mr. Vijayakumar says the government’s “performance” would take him to the victory post.

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