Aggressive measures needed to tackle civic problems prevailing in the Nilgiris

Udhagamandalam: The parking lot for tourist vehicles just off the road leading to the Government Botanical Garden, the most popular tourist spot in this vacation destination is crammed even after the commencement of the wet season, clearly indicating that be it Winter, Spring, Summer or Autumn, the Blue Mountains (The Nilgiris) continues to be South India’s premier hill station, notwithstanding its haphazard development.

Thanks to the disturbances in tourist resorts like Kashmir, more tourists are flocking to Udhagamandalam and the nearby towns as a result of which there is a steady stream of visitors round the year.

However there is feeling among the concerned citizens of the Nilgiris that the tourist traffic is being taken for granted.

Already discerning tourists, both domestic and foreign, are reluctant to make a repeat visit, particularly to Udhagamandalam.

“We have had enough,” is their refrain, adverting to the lack of civic amenities.

In particular, the problems relating to parking are testing their patience.

During the just-concluded season, inadequate space and consequent haphazard parking was the most glaring shortcoming.

The appalling condition of the Kodappamund channel running through the heart of the town made many tourists squirm with disgust.

Apart from being an eye sore, it is now being seen as a major health hazard.

Udhagamandalam, which is already beset with ecological and environmental problems, will soon start resembling a “glorified slum” if steps are not initiated without delay to improve the channel and remove the encroachments in various parts of the town.

Among the other shortcomings pointed out by the tourists were the presence of stray animals like horses, cows and goats on the main roads and the occupation of footpaths by vendors of items ranging from footwear to vegetables.

The roadside encroachments are on the increase, thanks mainly to the “defiant” attitude of small-time politicians who have the blessings of persons with considerable political clout.

Meanwhile, some of the hoteliers and others directly or indirectly dependent on the tourism industry are of the view that too much attention should not be given to the civic problems.

However this is countered by the concerned citizens who opine that attracting tourists “by hook or by crook” does not augur well for the future of the industry, the town and the people.


For a Clean, Green Nilgiris

As part of the ongoing Summer Festival the focus has now been shifted to promote eco tourism in the Nilgiris

Udhagamandalam: With the curtain coming down on dance, drama and music programmes organised as part of the Summer Festival at the Breeks HADP Open Air Stadium here on Monday, the focus has shifted to other activities being organised in association with various private sector agencies.

Promoting adventure:The Nilgiris Collector Archana Patnaik flagging off a cycle rally in Udhagamandalam on Tuesday. — Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy

Speaking to The Hindu the organisers expressed the confidence that the activities proposed would not only give the tourists something to remember this hill station by but also carry forward the ‘Clean, Green Nilgiris’ theme of the ongoing Summer Festival.

The first among such activities was a cycle rally organised with the help of TI Cycles which was flagged off at the Collectorate here on Tuesday by the Nilgiris Collector, Archana Patnaik.

Stating that it was the first of its kind here, she said that since youth also are forced to adopt a sedentary lifestyle it is imperative that such activities are promoted.

Pointing out that cycling will also help protect the environment, she said that the participation of a large number of NCC girls from various parts of the country who are here in connection with a trekking expedition will help spread the green message.

With the cadets raising slogans like ‘Bharat Matha Ki Jai’ one of them Bhoomika of Ahmedabad said that she was filled with pride to take part in such a cycling campaign.

The Tourist Officer, Dorairaj, said that such activities made the Summer Festival lively.

The Manager (Marketing) TI Cycles, Saurav Jalgonkar, said that the objective was to help the administration promote eco tourism. A distance of about five km. was covered by the cyclists.

By way of promoting adventure cycling a display of extreme adventure biking skills will be organised at the Boat House here on Wednesday.


Nilgiris: Women urged to strengthen anti-plastics campaign

Welfare aid disbursed to differently-abled, underprivileged women

Udhagamandalam: Women should help make the anti-plastics campaign in the Nilgiris meaningful. This was emphasised at a function organised by the All India Women’s Conference (AIWC), the Nilgiris chapter, at Finger Post near here on Monday to mark the International Women’s Day celebrations.

Lamenting that the campaign, launched about a decade ago, has over the past many years not been serving its purpose, the president of the chapter Indu K. Mallah opined that the residents should shoulder the blame to a significant extent for the campaign losing steam.

Much-needed: Indu K. Mallah, president, All India Women's Conference, the Nilgiris chapter, distributing blankets at Finger Post ,near Udhagamandalam, on Monday.

Pointing out that the growing practice of setting ablaze discarded plastic items has become a major health hazard, she regretted that not many are aware that it is carcinogenic.

Exhorting women not to patronise banned plastic items like carry bags and disposable cups and plates, she urged them to strike a balance between their rights and responsibilities.

She felt that it would be a fitting tribute to the centenary of the International Women’s Day.

Stating that the women’s movement has evolved from women’s welfare to women’s development to their empowerment, she said that awareness about women’s rights and achievements in various fields is on the rise.

If all the women do what is expected of them, social justice will come to their doorsteps. Activist Jayamma welcomed the gathering and activist D. Josephine proposed a vote of thanks. Distribution of blankets and cooking accessories to differently-abled and underprivileged women formed part of the occasion.


Ooty: Protect trees, grow more

Campaign on climate change in Udhagamandalam

Udhagamandalam: Tree planting programmes should no longer be a mere ritualistic exercise, said the District Forest officer, the Nilgiris North, K. Soundarapandian, while inaugurating a campaign on Climate Change organised by the Nilgiris Environment and Cultural Service Trust (NEST) at the Oxford Teacher Training Institute here on Tuesday.

The people and organisations taking saplings from the forest department should ensure that they are nurtured. Problems associated with climate change and carbon emission can be combated only by protecting the existing trees and growing more trees, he said. It should be ensured that the density of forests is not reduced.

Eucalyptus and other species are not being encouraged, he said adding the policy of the department is to promote native species only as the shola trees function like a sponge and release water throughout the year. Fire is a major source of concern to the department.

Mr. Soundarapandian said that teachers should influence the children.

The chairman, Udhagamandalam Municipal Council, R. Rajendran, who presided over the programme said that the government cannot implement schemes successfully without the cooperation of the people.

Sad turn

Referring to the planting scheme initiated by him a couple of years ago, he said that though 1,000 Jacaranda saplings had been planted in various parts of the town only about 300 have established firm roots. Emphasising the need to act more and talk less, he said that people should avoid using vehicles unnecessarily.

The Assistant Conservator of Forests Jayaraj said that the stress now is on people’s participation in the programmes of the forest department.

The people should be familiarised with the direct and indirect benefits of trees.

The Field Officer, CPR Environmental Education Centre, M. Kumaravelu, said that awareness must lead to action. The Managing Trustee, NEST, V. Sivadass, said that the economic well being of the Nilgiris is dependent on its weather.

The release of a pamphlet on climate change by Mr. Soundarapandian marked the occasion.


Climate change is a scientific challenge, says expert

Udhagamandalam: Students and residents of this hill station got some valuable insight into various aspects of climate change thanks to a lecture, organised by the British Council, the Nilgiris Documentation Centre and the Rotary Clubs in the Nilgiris district here on Friday.

The Emeritus Professor of Climate Modelling Lord Julian Hunt delivered the lecture.

Understanding how the climate is changing in different ways around the world and how these variations will evolve is a great scientific challenge of our time, including the possibilities of changes to the Indian monsoon and El Nino climatic effects, he said.

Problems relating to climate change surfaced in the 1980s but nobody took them seriously then. Only about ten years ago did the world start understanding the importance of the issue.

Though human beings destroy the environment they also possess the capacity to think ahead. Variations have to be monitored in detail and considered carefully in investigating appropriate future policies especially for adaptation.

These policies have to be integrated with other policies, technologies and political considerations needed to ensure overall sustainable development, including reduction of air pollution, economic growth and mitigation of green house gas emission.

Down memory lane

Lord Julian also recalled his association with the Nilgiris and took a walk down memory lane.

The Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, M.R. Srinivasan, referred to the unusually heavy downpour experienced in Ketti area near here recently and the questions that it raised.

The vice-president, Nilgiris Wildlife and Environment Association, Geetha Srinivasan, who presided, said while climate change is a process of nature which has been going on for billions of years, the speed at which humanity is driving the process may result in mankind becoming the last of the endangered species on Earth.

According to her, a change can be brought about only with the efforts of individuals. Changes in individual lifestyles of people can change the situation.

The Nilgiris being a unique area needs a special district planning authority.

The Director, Nilgiris Documentation Centre, Dharmalingam Venugopal, said that climate change and survival are now inextricably intertwined.


Mudumalai to be closed

Udhagamandalam: The Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) near here will remain closed between February 19 and 25.

Field Director, MTR, Rajiv K.Srivastava on Friday said that it was to facilitate the conduct of the second All India Tiger, Co-predators, Prey Species Census and habitat monitoring and Phase 1 data collection exercise from February 20 to 25. Members of the Nilgiri Wildlife and Environment Association, the World Wide Fund for Nature, students of the Government Arts College among others would participate.


Stringent action for illegal felling of trees: Minister

Selvaraj inspects a private area near Geddhai where trees have been allegedly cut

Udhagamandalam: Steps will be taken to to prevent illegal tree felling, said Forest Minister N. Selvaraj while speaking to presspersons near Geddhai on Tuesday.

Pointing out that the amount of fine imposed does not match the offence, he felt that it should be increased.

Stating that the purpose of his visit was to inspect on the orders of the Chief Minister a private area near Geddhai where a large number of trees including valuable ones had allegedly been cut and a road laid to transport them, he claimed that it had been found that no valuable trees had been felled and the road was in existence for many decades. Only some trees used for fire wood had been cut.

District-level panel

Pointing out that there is a district-level committee to deal with applications for felling trees, Mr. Selvaraj said that stringent action would be taken against those who brought down trees without the clearance of the committee.

When asked about the proposed elephant corridor at Sigur near the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, he said that the government will give its report to the High Court only after ensuring that the corridor was properly identified and the people are not affected.

Boar menace

He added that efforts would be made to tackle the wild boar menace in agricultural fields.

Among those present were the Khadi Board Minister, K. Ramachandran, the Conservator of Forests, R. Kannan, and the Field Director, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Rajiv K. Srivastava.