THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Vacationers who visited Ponmudi this summer would have noticed a tower being erected atop its Upper Sanatorium. A watchtower, they must have thought. Not just that, says the Forest Department. The watchtower, which is under construction, will double up as a lightning protection system, according to Palode range officer Abdul Jaleel.
Abdul Jaleel says, “The Forest Department decided to build this tower in view of mishaps caused by lightning. The project cost is estimated to be around Rs 3 lakh. The construction began in March. Next week its final phase of concreting will begin. In another month or so, the watchtower will be ready.”
The peak on the Upper Sanatorium is prone to being hit by lightning. In November last year, a young tourist died on the spot after being struck with an unexpected lightning. Unexpected, as there was no rain on the day. In the incident, two of his friends escaped with minor injuries. Since then, tourists have been hesitant to visit the peak.
The new watchtower is close to an amenity centre complete with a restaurant and other facilities. The restaurant clocks in an average income of Rs 35,000 per day, according to Forest Department officials. This is an indicator of the stream of trekkers visiting the hill station, but of late they have been giving the peak on the Upper Sanatorium a miss. Once the watchtower is built, they can enjoy the breathtaking views of the hill station, without a fret.
Apart from providing a complete top view of Ponmudi, the point chosen for the tower has another significance. According to Thiruvananthapuram Divisional Forest Officer T Uma this point was frequented by the British during the colonial era. Its cool air and dense greens would cure them of homesickness, and keep them rooted to the cause of the empire.
The Forest Department has some more refurbishments on its mind. “A telescope,” says Uma, “will be installed inside the tower, as and when the funds are available. For now, visitors can stand safely inside a glass enclosure at the top, and take in the views of the place.” From up there, green apogees of tropical trees, clouds resting atop other peaks and rivulets formed off condensed mist will be seen. That is, the whole 360 degrees of Ponmudi. n See also P3