Varkala to be spruced up ahead of Onam

Tourism dept sanctions Rs 1 crore for emergency maintenance works and to develop more amenities 
The cliff and Papanasam beach at Varkala in Thiruvananthapuram. (Photo | B P Deepu, EPS)
The cliff and Papanasam beach at Varkala in Thiruvananthapuram. (Photo | B P Deepu, EPS)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  Varkala is one of the state’s most-visited tourist destinations. On average, around 50,000 foreign tourists visit the destination annually. However, a lack of basic amenities, including toilet facilities, and sporadic or no maintenance work have seen many tourists leaving Varkala with a sour taste in their mouths. This is further compounded by the fact that the place offers scant security as many of the CCTV cameras are not functioning.

Now, after much hue and cry, plans are finally afoot to spruce up the destination. The tourism department has sanctioned Rs 1 crore to tend to emergency maintenance works and to see more amenities available to tourists in Varkala. The authorities have also had several rounds of discussions with the stakeholders to prepare a comprehensive master plan for the destination’s development. 

However, it has tasked the District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) with tending to the emergency repair works here on a war footing ahead of Onam. “To begin with, we have decided to light up the area and the nearby cliff to enhance security. The handrailings are damaged at various places. This will be taken care of. We have roped in the district Nirmithi Kendra for carrying out emergency works,” said an official of the Tourism department.

In addition, authorities are also planning to introduce more amenities, including shower rooms, changing rooms, seating arrangements and others. “The toilet block in the beach area will be renovated and opened immediately. All this work will happen in the coming weeks,” the official added.

Damaged bins mar waste management efforts
Damaged bins mar waste management efforts

Masterplan by next month 
The work on the Varkala masterplan is progressing fast. The Tourism Department has roped in Kerala Tourism Infrastructure Ltd (KTIL) to coordinate development activities at the destination. An official associated with the project said that the master plan preparation is in its preliminary stages. 

“The preparation is happening on a war footing and we will be able to come up with a draft by August end,” said a KTIL official. The project will be executed in a phased manner. “There are issues that need to be addressed immediately, and the local bodies have a key role to play.

Once all these issues are resolved, we will focus on improving basic tourist infrastructure. The second phase will cover proper waste management, signages, and wastewater treatment,” the official said. The conservation of the Varkala cliff is also a priority in the masterplan. “There needs to be a long-term study done to find how best we can protect the cliff,” the official added.

More cleaning staff to be deployed
To ensure the proper upkeep of Varkala, the authorities have decided to deploy more cleaning staff at the destination.  “Littering is a major issue at the destination and proper clean up of the beach areas is not happening. Also, there are not enough dustbins or garbage movement here,” said Sanjay Sahadevan, advisor to Varkala Tourism Development Association. At present, there are around 10 cleaning staff. The authorities hope to nearly double this strength.  

“A meeting has been scheduled for next week and eight more sanitation workers will be deployed after that for maintaining the cleanliness of the destination,” said the official. To augment this effort, the Tourism department is also mulling strict ground rules to be followed by visiting tourists.  “We will be coming up with strict guidelines for the visiting tourists. We are planning to implement the green protocol in the destination. In an effort to make the destination plastic-free, we will set up drinking water kiosks for tourists, thus eliminating the need for plastic bottles,” the official added.

Drinking kiosks and natural springs 
There are two natural springs in Varkala and each generate approximately 540 litres of water per hour. The spring is being used by tourists for bathing. To better utilise this water flowing into the ocean, the authorities intend to set up drinking kiosks. “The water from these springs can be collected, purified and used for drinking. Water kiosks are being installed to facilitate this,” said Sanjay Sahadevan, advisor to Varkala Tourism Development Association.

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