Adimalathura floating bridge hits rough weather
Adventure tourism project at Adimalathura faces waves of protest from local stakeholders
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Plans to construct the district’s first-ever floating bridge at Adimalathura is likely to be scrapped owing to stiff resistance from resort owners and fishermen. Located close to the iconic Kovalam beach, Adimalathura has been drawing scores of visitors in the recent past, prompting the tourism department to come up with projects to transform the beach into a major adventure tourism hub.
However, with protests billowing, the tourism department has temporarily suspended the construction of the floating bridge. The plan was to throw open the floating bridge for the public this month. In addition to the floating bridge, the department was planning to introduce Rs 2 crore worth of water sportS activities at Adimalathura. Parasailing, speed boating, jet skiing, sea rafting, kayaking, banana boating, and bumper boating were some of the activities being considered.
According to the Beach Samrakshana Samiti, which opposes the project, the floating bridge will ruin the placid ambience of the picturesque beach. That would discourage tourists coming in for the natural beauty and serenity. On average, 20,000 foreign tourists visit the Adimalathura beach every year.
“There are around 50 properties, including resorts and homestays in the locality,” notes Baby Mathew, a resort owner and former president of Kerala Travel Mart Society. “Thousands of foreign tourists come here to unwind, take a dip in the sea or sunbathe on the beach. This is in addition to the scores of domestic tourists from other states.”
Highlighting that tourism is already active at Adimalathura, he argues that activities such as floating bridges should be installed at spots that need a boost. “The idea is good, but Adimalathura is not ideal for adventure tourism. Rather, it will disrupt the existing tourism ecosystem,” says Baby, adding that new projects should take local realities into consideration.
“We took this up with the tourism director and minister. They are convinced about our concerns, and have promised to take necessary action.” Besides tourism stakeholders, traditional fishermen engaged in ‘kambavala’ (gillnet) fishing at Adimalathura have also come out against the project. “Adimalathura has about 1,000 traditional ‘kambavala’ fishermen. A large majority of them are elderly, and it’s impossible for them to go for other jobs now. The floating bridge project will leave many fishermen jobless,” says Leen Xavier, a kambavala owner.
He adds the tourism department’s promise to employ fishermen to operate the floating bridge would not offset the loss of livelihood in the area. “We are talking about hundreds of fishermen who will become unemployed. We cannot accept this project,” Leen asserts. “Moreover, the beach is not safe for adventure activities. Several people have died here; so many have gone missing.”
Leen stresses that the fisherfolk are not against development. “We have already sacrificed so much for the Vizhinjam port project,” he adds. “The government should approach such projects more reasonably, and study the impact of such tourism infrastructure on the livelihood of the fishing community. I hope they will drop the project.”
Focus shifts to Varkala
With protests mounting at Adimalathura, the tourism department has decided to prioritise the floating bridge project at Varkala. Meanwhile, officials are searching for an alternative location near Kovalam to set up the floating bridge that was meant for Adimalathura. “We have suspended the work at Adimalathura because of the local protests,” says a tourism official. “More meetings with the stakeholders at Adimalathura will be held. We hope to take them into confidence.” The official adds that the stakeholders at Varkala are “very happy” about the floating bridge project. “We will kick off the work in 15 days,” he says.