“Discover Kerala” initiative for UAE nationals

DUBAI: A Malayalee association is organising a unique initiative to lead a delegation from UAE to Kerala for exploring the art, culture and traditions of the south Indian state.

The initiative “Discover Kerala”, which has been taken up by the World Malayalee Council (WMC) in association with Kerala Tourism Ministry, will enable a group of 20 UAE nationals to visit “God’s own country” by the year-end.

“Through the first-of-its-kind initiative, WMC aims to familiarise the chosen delegates, including government officials and prominent community members, with Kerala’s tourism potentials, especially backwater tourism and eco-tourism, and the art forms, culture and traditions of the state,” WMC publicity and media convener Sajan Veloor said.

“We are also trying to let them understand the potentials of Ayurvedic treatment methods,” Veloor said, adding, this will be the first time that a group of Emiratis are visiting Kerala on an official trip.

“Officials of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing have already expressed their interest in such an initiative. On the other hand, we have secured the support from the Kerala Tourism Ministry. Our members from the business community are sponsoring the Emirati delegation, by bearing all expenses for their travel and stay,” he said.

The initiative has been announced as part of the 17th anniversary celebrations of WMC which were held in Dubai on Friday. The association has also decided to sponsor the education of 1,000 students from villages in Kerala for a year and would also support an awareness campaign against pollution of rivers in the state.

From TOI

Do Kerala needs eco-tourism ?

While the houseboat industry has brought a welcome source of income for the Kerala backwaters, their uncontrolled proliferation is having a dramatic impact on the fragile coastal ecosystem. Prasanam, a boatman who takes tourists through the Alappuzha backwaters on a traditional ‘kettuvallam’, explains why eco-tourism, already in some areas of Kerala, should spread throughout the region

Boatman Prasanam (left) in his traditional kettuvallam. Photograph: Lily Philipose

I have lived in Alappuzha since the day I was born. There was practically no tourism here till about the 1990s, when things started to change quickly. The backwaters became the hot spot for Kerala tourism. As boatmen we had used our thatched-roof wooden “kettuvallams” [literally meaning “stitched boat,” a traditional country boat made with wooden planks, stitched together with coir ropes, steered only with a punting pole] to transport rice. Then we realised we could make much more money by taking people to tourist resorts and spice farms.

On the whole, the tourist industry has helped boatmen. But I worry about the condition of the backwaters. Neither the tour operators or the government are paying much attention to its worsening quality.

The backwaters suffer from pollution because water hyacinths are growing so rapidly that they have taken over the waterways in some parts. The clusters of these mauve flowers make for scenic photographs but in actuality the hyacinths are choking the water.

Boatmen see how fast these plants grow from week to week, and how they disrupt the natural water flow. Once they cover the surface of the water, they block off the sunlight, and the fish and native plants below become starved of oxygen. When the plants decompose they add to the pollution and soon mosquitoes start breeding. That is the reason why there have been malaria outbreaks in some of the backwater areas.

There is a simple and natural way to get rid of the water hyacinths without using any chemicals, and many boatmen know how. If we channel the sea water to enter the backwaters for a few months, the salt kills the hyacinths and keeps the water clean and weed-free for a long time. If only people in authority would listen to us, they could easily improve the situation.

An even more serious pollution is created by the houseboat industry. The tourists come mostly for the backwater tours, so the boatmen have begun to build bigger and fancier boats. Look along the shores and you can see how many wooden hulls are being constructed this very moment.

There are about 2,000 houseboat “kettuvallams” today, and some of them are floating palaces. All have living/dining rooms, kitchens, bathrooms and verandas. The kitchens use kerosene stoves for cooking, and there is a generator for electricity and an outboard motor that runs on diesel. The luxurious versions even have two storeys, air-conditioned bedrooms, conference rooms, flat screens and whirlpools.

I’m all for attracting visitors to enjoy this natural beauty. Many of us have well-paid jobs because of the stream of visitors. Besides, I enjoy taking tourists on my boat, and many of them stay in touch with me from all over the world. I’ve kept all their letters and cards in this book, and I read them from time to time. I have a beautiful card from a young couple from France who were here on their honeymoon.

But I have chosen to ply the simple traditional version of the “kettuvallam” with no outboard motor and no overnight accommodation. I tell tourists who choose this kind of boat that they leave smaller footprints on the natural environment.

The tourism board is simply ignoring the environmental effect of the increasingly numerous and luxurious houseboats. The diesel from the outboard motors and the kerosene from the stoves leak into the water, and sometimes we can actually taste the kerosene in the “karimeen” [also known as pearlspot fish] that the fishermen catch here. The cooking water from the kitchens and shower and bathwater also end up as pollutants.

Remember, the backwaters are not only here for the tourists. There are village people who live on the shores, and they use the polluted water for their cooking, cleaning and washing. The tour operators of the fancy houseboats make good money, but the people in the villages whose waters get polluted don’t see any of the profits.

We know Kerala does not have many other industries that will bring us money to live well. So, yes, we want development and economic opportunity. Yes, we want to open up to tourism. But we need the kind of tourism that will not destroy the natural beauty of the backwaters that makes Kerala so attractive for travellers and for the people who have lived here all their lives.

• Prasanam was talking to Guardian Weekly reader Lily Philipose. – From Guardian UK

Monsoon sets in over Kerala

A low pressure over central Arabian Sea may play spoilsport

NEW DELHI: The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Monday announced the arrival of the southwest monsoon in Kerala. It, however, expressed caution over the further progress of the monsoon in view of a low pressure area over the central Arabian Sea.

In a press release, the IMD said the system could advance over coastal and south interior Karnataka and Goa over the next two days. But its later movement would depend on how the low pressure area developed.

According to senior IMD officials, current indications are that the low pressure area may gradually intensify into a cyclonic storm and move initially in a north-westerly direction for the next 48 hours and then re-curve north-eastwards towards Gujarat and the adjoining Pakistan coast.

Speaking to The Hindu, India Meteorological Department Director-General Ajit Tyagi confirmed that the rainfall in the coming days was expected to remain confined to the west coast along the windward side of the Western Ghats, as the winds may not be able to reach up to the top of the mountains and flow over to the leeward side.

Next spell

Consequently, the interior areas of the southern peninsula may not get much rain now. They may have to wait for the next spell, which is expected around June 10, when the positive phase of the phenomenon called Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is expected to reach the Indian Ocean.

The MJO, which refers to an inter-annual fluctuation of atmosphere pressure over the Indian and western Pacific oceans, comes in the form of alternating cyclonic and anti-cyclonic regions that enhance and suppress rainfall, respectively, and that flows eastward along the Equator.

The MJO influences monsoonal circulation and rainfall by adding moisture during its cyclonic or wet phase. The cyclonic phase is now in the offing for the Indian Ocean region. The phenomenon is named after American atmospheric scientists Roland Madden and Paul Julian.

The arrival of monsoon over Kerala is almost in line with the prediction made by IMD two weeks ago. On May 14, the Department forecast that the system would set in over the State on May 30 with a model error of plus or minus four days.

Kerala is the entry point for monsoon into the Indian mainland. The normal date for the onset over the State is June 1.

By P. Sunderarajan From THE HINDU

WWF-India meet in Kerala on responsible wood trade and forest certification

WWF- India in association with the Malabar Chamber of Commerce hosted the global multi stakeholder meet on responsible wood trade and forest certification here on Thursday.

The conference is aimed at understanding the various approaches for responsible wood trade.

The conference saw the participation of SME’s across India, international experts on wood trade and certification, wood processors, forest and plantation managers, farm forestry/agro forestry growers, timber traders, paper and pulp companies, retailers dealing with wood and non-wood forest products, NGOs, certification bodies, financial institutions, builders, architects and relevant government agencies.

Business to business meetings were also conducted amongst the companies committed to promote responsible wood trade and credible forest certification.

WWF-India is a partner in implementing the project “Sustainable and Responsible Trade Promoted to Wood Processing SMEs through Forest and Trade Networks in China, India and Vietnam” with the support of the European Commission.

A major objective of this project in India is to build capacity among SMEs in wood processing sectors of Kerala, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh towards providing certified sustainable forest products to national and international markets. By Juhan Samuel (ANI)

From Sify

Thenmala India’s first approved eco tourism destination

Thenmala located in the southern most corner of India in the state of kerala most oftenly punchmarked as “Gods Own Country” and this beautiful small state is visited and admired by a lot of tourist form all corners of the globe,and this state was among the must see destination according to Geographic Traveller. Talking about the destination it is situated in Kollam dist of Kerala  and forms a part  of Agasthaya Biosphere Reserve flanked by Shenduranay wild life Sanctuary where a boating facility is availabe for the tourist.

Kallada bridge

Taking about the genesis the word THEN in malayalam {the local dialect in kerala} means honey and MALA means mountain which all together gives the meaning as honey combed mountains, and it has been told that the money extracted from this mountains and valleys are of good quality and carry high medicinal value.On the other hand Thenmala is also rich in forest product which is a livlihood for the locla people.Shendurany as we use to call because of a particular tree which is called Chenkurany which is available there.

The present Eco Tourism destination Thenmala has three important zones such as Cultural zone, Adventure zone and Leisure zone most of the tourist are youth and nature lovers cultural zone provides the tourist with dancing fountain show,lazer show and doucmentary showand nature related information.The adventure zones gives the youth some challenging activities like Jummering,River crossing,Trekking,Jungle camp etcThe leisure zone is for the grown up where they can just relax and have a brisk walk through the canopy and can have a glimpse of the biosphere the elderly find pleasure in boating in the Shendurany river, battery vehicles are operated inside the sanctuary to protect the flora fauna.

Recently three important new measures has been taken by making a new form of forest called the Nakshatravanam {star forest} where a specific trees according to once own zodiac sign is being planted and protected for the tourist to have a glimpse.A deer rehabilitation center is also operated there and Asia’s first butter fly park is situated there in Thenmala  making home for more than 500 species of butterfly. The Thenmala eco tourism project  is being highly benefiting locla people staying in and around thenmala thus fulfilling the aim of eco tourism.

From EcoPortal

Kerala: Eco-tourism project work to begin soon

Third phase to include butterfly and children’s parks

The Forest Department will launch work on the third phase of the multi-crore eco-tourism project at the Elephant Camp at Konni soon, P. Pukazhenthi, Divisional Forest Officer, has said.

Talking to The Hindu here on Wednesday, Mr. Pukazhenthi said tender proceedings of the proposed butterfly park and children’s park at the Elephant Camp was under way.

Elephants tethered at the modern elephant shelters at the Elephant Camp of the Forest department, Konni. Photo: Leju Kamal

The eco-tourism centre has been developed jointly by the departments of forest and tourism at the nine-acre Elephant Camp in January, 2007, making it a base station facilitating various eco-tourism activities in the region.

The camp houses modern elephant shelters, elephant kraal, a photo gallery, mini-theatre, biogas plant, retiring rooms for mahouts and shops that sell forest produce. The DFO said the third phase of the project was aimed at setting up new entertainment facilities, besides improving the existing ones.

He said the nine-decade-old Forest Inspection Bungalow at Naduvathumoozhy would be converted into a guest house-cum-heritage interpretation centre.

Butterfly park

Mr. Pukazhenthi said the proposed butterfly park would be a home to hundreds of colourful butterflies, including some rare species. Depletion of green cover owing to fast pace of development had been posing threat to butterfly population even in rural areas.

The DFO said the proposed eco-friendly park would be enclosed in a polycarbonate dome suitably designed for weather control and to educate the visitors about how various systems of nature worked, using this insect as a model.

Tree-top huts

He said tree-top huts had also been planned as part of the third phase. Elephant safari is a major tourist attraction at the camp. An elephant at the camp costs Rs.100. The sojourn on the elephant is a thrilling experience and it offers a unique opportunity to appreciate and enjoy nature. Though the camp houses five elephants, the department has been conducting elephant ride only on a 23-year-old female elephant ‘Anuradha’.

Mr. Pukazhenthi said rock climbing and river rafting would also be introduced in the third phase of development. Vana Samrakshana Samithi workers had been appointed as guides to take tourists for jungle treks as well as various other eco-tourism activities, he said.

By Radhakrishnan Kuttoor From THE HINDU

Kerala: Eco tourism project for Kadalundi

A Rs.42-lakh scheme sanctioned as part of a tourism project covering mangrove vegetations.

Kozhikode: The Kadalundi panchayat is gearing up to implement a Rs.42-lakh eco tourism development scheme that has been sanctioned as part of a tourism project covering mangrove vegetations fund in the region between Vallikkunnu panchayat in Malappuram and Kumbla in Kasaragod district.

The fund for the project has been sanctioned by the Central government. The panchayat committee scheduled to meet on March 17 is expected to chalk out a plan of action to implement the project. Provision has been made in the project to set up facilities like walkways to enable visitors to observe mangroves at close range and to put up protective barriers for the vegetation.

The project also has provision for toilets, a boat jetty, and a fishing point.

The Kadalundi panchayat committee had already given its green signal to the project at a meeting which was presided over by panchayat president O Bhaktavalsalan.

Anil Marath, chairman of Kadalundi Community Reserve, said the mangrove project would be useful to students to understand nature better

The project will complement another Rs.58.66-lakh scheme that has been sanctioned for neighbouring Vallikkunnu panchayat in Malappuram district Tour packages are proposed to attract visitors to these sites.

Only eco-friendly materials would be used for construction.

From THE HINDU