STEENA JOY – Thiruvanathapuram
The proposed Rs 6,000 crore Vizhinjam port project coming up in south Kerala does not bode well for tourism in God’s Own Country. More than 40 resorts will be impacted directly, both small and big including reputed resorts like Somatheeram Ayurvedic Resort, Ayurbay Beach Resort, Coconut Bay Beach Resort, Sagara Beach Resort. The South Kerala Hotelier’s Forum (SKHF) and the Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHRA) together with 31 resorts in the proposed project area have submitted a memorandum to the state government for reconsidering the site of the container terminal. The port will cover two km of direct coastline and a ship channel of another two km so a total of four km of the Kovalam-Vizhinjam stretch will be lost to the tourism industry.
Speaking to Express TravelWorld, Cyriac Kodath, a member of SKHF and director, Coconut Bay Beach Resort, said, “When a study was done in 2010 for site approval, the consultants stated that only three resorts would be affected and that too marginally. But the reality is that nearly 40 resorts , big and small will be directly affected by this project. We have no objections to the port project but data was falsified to obtain clearances for it. The study also does not say anything about the possible environmental damage, biodiversity destruction and the peculiar erosion pattern in the southern coast.” South Kerala is famous for its beaches and the many Ayurveda resorts that dot the Vizhinjam shoreline. Resorts like Somatheeram, a Green Leaf certified Ayurveda centre of international repute frequented by medical tourists worldwide will also be affected. Kodath added, “Apart from the beach resorts impacted directly, more than 160 handicraft and tourism related businesses will also suffer. Nearly 20,000 jobs would be lost. More importantly, the project could change the shoreline and erode the popular Kovalam Beach which lies just 1.3 km from the project site. This could spell disaster for Kerala’s tourism industry for which Kovalam is an international identity.”
Meanwhile, a five member committee has been constituted by the state government to study the impact of the seaplane project on Kerala’s backwaters following protests by fisherfolk. The report is expected by first week of September.