THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Ponmudi hill station, the popular tourist haunt situated barely 60 km from the state capital, remains closed for visitors even during the ongoing festive Christmas-New Year season. The hill station was closed in October, following heavy rain and landslips at certain hairpin curves. However, the tourism department and forest department have not taken any steps to reopen the place even after some of the damaged roads were repaired. It is alleged that lack of coordination between works department and forest department led to this uncertainty.
The hilly terrain and the salubrious climate, with mist contributing to its unique charm, used to draw travellers in their thousands, especially during December-January period. Social media is witnessing a public outcry for throwing open the picturesque place to visitors. On Monday, district Congress committee(DCC) president Palode Ravi submitted a memorandum to Tourism and Works Minister P A Mohammed Riyas urging him to initiate steps to reopen the place for visitors after repairing the roads at the earliest.
“We used to go to Ponmudi during weekends as it is a popular getaway. December- January is the most suitable time for tourists to visit the hill station. Many domestic tourists also used to stay at the KTDC hotel at hilltop during Christmas season and on New year Eve. The tourism department also used to get good revenue during this period. There are many people who prefer these tourist hotspots over shopping malls and cinemas. So, the government should take urgent steps to reopen it, “ said M S Harikrishnan, a regular visitor.
Earlier, during the heavy rain that lashed the region in October, landslips were reported at 15 of the 22 hairpin curves from Kallar to Ponmudi hilltop. In addition, a crack also developed on the road between hairpin 11 and 12. Ponmudi police said that some of the damaged roads have been repaired. But, they pleaded ignorance on why tourists were still barred from visiting the place. However, the KTDC hotel has started taking bookings and those who wish to stay at the hotel can come, police said.
S Sunil Kumar, Forest Officer, Ponmudi said that the damaged road near the checkpost at the entry point near Kallar has not been repaired so far. “ The damaged roads at hill top and at some hairpin curves were repaired. But the road at the starting point after the checkpost is still in a bad condition and a quarter portion of the road remains caved in.
At present, only one-way traffic is allowed and that too for police and emergency vehicles. The KSRTC service to Ponmudi has been restarted, but it is only for those who live at the estate and tribal areas near Ponmudi. The reason for the delay in repairing the road is that the forest department cannot issue the road safety certificate due to the poor condition of the road. It is the responsibility of works department to carry out the work. If private vehicles were allowed, the consequences could be terrible, “ he said.
Incidentally, the still not repaired stretch of the road comes under the Aruvikkara assembly constituency while the road near hill top is under Vamanapuram constituency. The roads under Vamanapuram constituency were almost completed. A works department source said that bids have been invited for the road near Kallar, but work is yet to begin. “ There is some fund issue and it will be resolved soon. The work will start soon. The works minister is also keen on repairing the road to facilitate arrival of tourists to Ponmudi, “ said a senior PWD officer.