KOCHI: Set to paint the hills and valleys of Munnar a stunning purple-blue, the Neelakurinji, the flower that blankets the hills once in 12 years, has started to bloom over the pristine hills of Rajamala, and the hills and valleys across the Eravikulam National Park. In a way, the rare flowering marks the blooming of hope for the tourism industry which is the doldrums, following the floods.
But, while visitors from other states and foreigners have started trickling in, the biggest challenge before the civil administration is to rectify flood damage and ensure basic infrastructure facilities for tourists.
Though it is peak tourist season, Munnar town wears a deserted look. But the authorities are hopeful the number of visitors will increase in the coming weeks. While the Rajamala hills wait to be saturated with the Neelakurinji, it has enveloped many hills and valleys in the deep forests.
“The Neelakurinji has just started to bloom and it will take another week for the buds to bloom fully,” said Munnar wildlife warden R Lakshmi. “We had made elaborate arrangements for tourists, but the heavy rains destroyed the buds and delayed the blooming. For the next two months, the flowers will be in full bloom and we expect more visitors in the coming days.”
The bridge at Periyavarai connecting Munnar with Rajamala Marayur was damaged in the floods. So now tourists must park their vehicles at Periyavarai bridge, get across by walking on the two electric posts placed across the river and hire a vehicle at the other side to reach the Rajamala base station. Once here, the Forest Department takes them to the hills in batches. On Sunday morning, a month after the devastating flood, S Rajendran MLA opened a temporary bridge reestablishing road connectivity to the hills. The government has allotted `28 crore for constructing a new bridge at Periyavarai, he said.
“I have urged the government to expedite the process, so the new bridge is completed in three months. This will enable tourists to reach the Rajamala base camp directly. We are hopeful that more tourists will arrive to see the Neelakurinji blooming in the coming days. This will help to revive the tourism industry,” he said.DTPC secretary Jayan P Vijayan said many tourists have cancelled their visit to Munnar following the floods. “We are planning a campaign to woo them back to Munnar,” he said.