Yet another instance of collapse threatens tourism at Varkala Cliff

Unregulated devpt activities, lack of long-term conservation plans have made the cliff fragile
The portion of the cliff that collapsed near Edava beach in Varkala on Friday
The portion of the cliff that collapsed near Edava beach in Varkala on Friday

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : Putting the state’s tourism potential at major risk, the famed Varkala Cliff has been witnessing recurring collapses. On Friday, a significant portion of the cliff collapsed near Edava Beach and the tourism stakeholders are worried. The back- to-back incidents at Varkala Cliff — the iconic geological monument — are putting local tourism at risk.

Unregulated and unscientific development activities along with lack of long-term initiatives and plans to conserve and protect the cliff — a major tourist attraction — have made the cliff fragile, accelerating its erosion. In the past few months, the cliff has experienced as many as 15 minor and major landslips, raising serious concerns and questions on the accountability of the state government, Varkala municipality and the tourism department to protect the cliff that has been declared as a national geological monument nearly a decade ago.

Even a few months ago, the tourism department launched a study to prepare a masterplan for the comprehensive development of Varkala, but no further action was taken.

Despite the erosion and instability of the cliff, the Varkala municipality has turned a blind eye to the growing illegal construction on the edge of the cliff. It is learned that the municipality had granted permission for new constructions untill a year ago. Recently, the local body launched a survey to identify structures within 10m from the edge of the cliff.

Lenin R, joint secretary of Varkala Tourism Development Association, alleged that instead of protecting the cliff the local body is attempting to sabotage the tourism activities there. “Varkala destination has been generating a lot of revenue for the government but none of the authorities took any effort to protect the cliff. Apart from meetings, discussions and studies, nothing has happened on the ground till date. We all have been running business on this cliff for several decades now. The cliff has been eroding from time immemorial,” said Lenin R. There are around 500 resorts at Varkala with around 6,000 rooms and there are around 240 structures on the North Cliff. “Around 10,000 families are dependent on the tourism industry at Varkala and we suspect a shady motive behind the move of the local body to destroy the industry by removing structures from the cliff,” he added.

Following widespread complaints regarding the growing destruction of the Varkala Cliff, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has launched a feasibility study.

GSI (Kerala Unit) deputy director general V Ambili told TNIE that the cliff became insatiable and fragile owing to unscientific planning and development activities. “Tourism and conservation activities can go hand in hand. It’s successfully happening in many parts of the world. If a scientific plan was in place for sewage and greywater management, the situation wouldn’t have become this alarming,” said Ambili. She said a feasibility study will be done on the cliff in detail to assess its strength to come up with suitable conservation methods soon.

15 - major and minor landslips were reported in the cliff in the past few months

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