KOCHI: Cherai, which once lured hordes of people with its pristine beach, has taken a beating with incessant rain and subsequent sea erosion eating into the tourist footfall. Though the local people claim sea erosion is normal during monsoon, the sharp decline in tourist arrival has come as a shocker. With occasional rain continuing to lash the place, hundreds, who look forward to the start of tourist season next month, are a worried lot.
“Things are usually dull during June-August. However, we used to have more tourists during the previous years,” says Maheshan, a lifeguard. “The highlight of Cherai beach was that it was shallow and tourists could move deep into the water. However, with the beach being washed away, the situation has changed, one reason why people ditched Cherai. Recently, four people were rescued from drowning,” said the lifeguard.
However, the water has started receding, which is a good sign. “We pray it doesn’t rain for at least a week. If the water doesn’t recede, the tourist season will be at stake,” he added.
The recent flood have wreaked havoc too. Resort owners and vendors said bookings were cancelled in bulk just after the floods. “The rumours abound on social media which give tourists the impression that floods have affected Kerala. Naturally, many have opted for Sri Lanka and Bali in Indonesia. Apart from a few domestic tourists, all we have now are foreign tourists and backpackers who travel on low budget. The DTPC and panchayat authorities should take initiatives to dispel such rumours and explore the tourism potential of Cherai,” says Shibu Krishna, a resort owner.
The lack of facilities has irked the domestic tourists. The high-mast light on the beach has stopped working, affecting the vendors and the little business they had.
“People loved to spend time on the beach till 9 pm. With the light not working, they leave by 6 pm,” says Shiju, an auto driver.
Though Kuzhupilly beach is another favourite spot for tourists, the road to the beach is in shambles. “Two-wheelers can somehow reach Kuzhupilly. But, other vehicles find it hard to pass through the road, especially when it rains. The panchayat has no interest in repairing the road or widening it,” says Renjith, a resident.
Waste is another issue. “Tourists litter the area. The vendors burn the waste weekly once, but the plastic wastes remain. Authorities don’t bother,” added Renjith.
According to S Vijayakumar, secretary, DTPC Ernakulam, though a `5-crore beach corridor project has already been approved, the project is being delayed as panchayat hasn’t given the building permit. The project consists of a lifeguard shelter, information centre and extension of the parking area. “A disabled-friendly toilet is also pending as the panchayat hasn’t given the permission yet,” says Vijayakumar.
“We are apprehensive about the beach corridor project as buildings will affect the beauty of the beach. As for the high-mast, it has to be rectified by the DTPC,” says P K Radhakrishnan, president, Pallippuram grama panchayat.