THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As Rahul Gandhi reaches Wayanad to file his nomination papers on Thursday, the challenges ahead are complex and some of the issues are like double-edged swords. Development without compromising on environment conservation will be the main challenge. While the trade bodies are demanding development on a par with other regions in the state, the greens are raising their voice for sustainable farming and environmental protection.
For instance, according to trade bodies, the tourism sector, one of the mainstays of the rural economy in the district, was one of the worst affected in the last fiscal with Nipah outbreak and August floods taking a big toll on the tourist arrivals.
Further, the tourism sector has been demanding better connectivity for Wayanad, which includes air connectivity (setting up of an airstrip), and road-rail connectivity and lifting night traffic ban through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve.
According to KR Vancheeswaran, president, Wayanad Tourism Organisation (WTO), the largest private body in the district that caters to the industry, “Better connectivity is very important in the growth of a terrain. But we are against development at the cost of the environment as Wayanad is one of the most fragile areas in the state. So, we are looking for a measured development without compromising on environment protection, but at the same time addressing the basic needs of the industry and trade bodies.”
N Badusha, president, Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samiti, said the ground realities in Wayanad demand a more focused intervention. The district has witnessed five farmer suicides this year. It has been one of the hotbeds of man-animal conflict zones in south India, where over 100 people have been killed in the past 25 years. So a development without addressing the basic issues is not what Wayanad is looking for.
More specifically, what the people are looking for is the promotion of agriculture, introduction of agro-based industries and value addition, restricted tourism with an emphasis on farm tourism, and conservation and conversion of natural forest to reduce man-animal conflict, he said.