KOTTAYAM: It began silently, with a group of people joining hands to revive the 'Arival thodu' stream. The initiative grew, evolving into a people's drive to implement STREET (sustainable, tangible, responsible, experiential, ethnic, tourism hubs), one of the major initiatives of the Kerala Tourism Department.
Now, Maravanthuruthu grama panchayat in Kottayam district, of which the 3-km-long 'Arival thodu' is an integral part, is setting an example by implementing
the STREET project with the 'responsible' involvement of local people.
Conceived by the Responsible Tourism Mission, the project aims to take tourism deep into the interiors and rural hinterlands of Kerala. Green street, village-life experience street, cultural street, experiential tourism street, water street, agri-tourism street and art street are planned under the project.
Maravanthuruthu has taken up the water street programme considering its geographical peculiarity and presence of water bodies.
Apart from a small fund allocated by Maravanthuruthu panchayat council, the residents have offered to bear the expense of the project and carry out the works.
“We are planning a people-centric tourism destination here. The project will be operated predominantly by residents.
Rather than use public money, residents have been roped in to lead the sustainable initiative. They will be the ultimate beneficiaries when visitors start pouring in,” said RT Mission state coordinator K Rupesh Kumar.
The 'water street' programme will have three components – backwater street, river street and canal street – all centred around 'Arival thodu', which connects two tributaries of Muvattupuzha river.
Once the revival of streams and rivers is over, visitors will enjoy a sail through the canal blessed with crystal clear water, experience the beauty of the village, watch traditional artforms and take in the rich flora and fauna along the way.
“Arival thodu, which is shaped like a sickle (hence the name), has a rich history dating back to the royal rule.
The stream later became a garbage dumping yard and its water flow got disrupted. Local people then joined hands and the canal has almost been revived. Major tourism activities will come up on its
banks which will be developed as canal street,” said Rupesh.
The stream connects two tributaries of Muvattupuzha river at Aattuvelakadavu and Panjippalam. The tourism department will make available country boats, pedal boats and kuttavanchi, operated by local people, to let visitors travel through the stream. They will also be able to go kayaking. On the banks, mangroves,chembarathi (hibiscus), chethi (jungle geranium or jungle flame), kadali (Malabar melastome) and similar plants will be planted by villagers.
Visitors will also get an opportunity to watch farmlands growing 12 types of plantains, nutmegs, paddy and other agriculture crops.
Since Maravanthuruthu is home to colourful rituals like aattuvela, theeyattu, garudan thookkam, sarppam thullal and so on, the department is also planning to tap their potential. Guests can watch the rituals while sailing through canal street during the evening.
Local artists will paint the walls on the banks of the canal too.
“When tourism returns to normal, Maravanthuruthu will undoubtedly emerge as one of the major tourism destinations of Kerala,” said Rupesh.
Appreciation from minister
Tourism Minister P A Mohamed Riyas hailed the activities progressing in Maravanthuruthu. “Maravanthuruthu village in Kottayam is getting a new face as part of the STREET project being implemented by the RT Mission,” he wrote on Facebook.
“The 'Arival thodu' canal in the village and its adjoining river became a source of freshwater for locals under the leadership of the grama panchayat and RT development committee. The canal is now being reclaimed after locals took the initiative to clear the encroachments and clean up the waste.
The STREET project aims to turn the stream into a canal water circuit as part of the water street programme and attract tourists,” Riyas said.
Similar streets will emerge in 10 select local bodies across the state and the mass development movement in Maravanthuruthu will act as a model for it.