NAMAKKAL: Despite its scenic beauty, the Kolli Hills has not drawn a large footfall of tourists due to a lack of enough amenities and inadequate safety measures.
Kolli Hills is one of the popular hill stations in the Western Ghats with 70 hairpin bends. It houses two popular temples, a boathouse, multiple viewpoints, a market for tribal-made products, waterfalls, etc. Visitors allege that they could spot people drinking at many points in the hill station.
M Geetha (35) from Chennai, who recently visited the hills along with her family, said they had an ‘unimaginable’ experience in the pleasant climate and enjoyed fresh air and the crystal clear water from the falls.
“At the same time, after seeing the lack of basic amenities and poor infrastructure and safety measures, no one would think of coming back here again,” she said.
There were no dressing rooms and separate toilets for men and women, and the steps at Agaya Gangai waterfalls had been damaged completely, the woman said lamenting that the officials had not kept even a first-aid box.
Another visitor S Aishwarya (35) from Mannargudi complained that wherever they went in the hills, some men would be consuming alcohol at that point. “Women and children are shy of visiting the places. Broken bottles and men in an inebriated condition scare people away. At one point, the people even started arguing with officials,” she said with a visible frustration.
Ensuring the visitors’ safety, keeping the hills clean, taking up green initiatives and acting against anti-social elements would be essential to encourage more people for visiting the destination, she suggested.
Meanwhile, sources in the Forest Department told TNIE, “We have not initiated any developmental activity in the last five years due to fund crunch. As many as 11 staff like foresters, guards and watchers have been appointed, but the strength is not sufficient.”
Of the 42 posts of forest watchers allocated for the district, 12 remain vacant, sources added.
The officials said they submitted proposals to the State government seeking funds for creating basic amenities and new posts in vain. Tourism activities in the hills would flourish if the government appointed more staff and allotted funds, they added.
District Forest Officer (DFO) K Rajangam said, “We are preparing the cost estimates for setting up basic facilities including toilets and shelters in Kolli Hills. There is a plan to carry out these works by using local funds. The proposals have been sent to the State government seeking release of funds.”
Since April, fine amount to the tune of over Rs 2 lakh had been collected from those who violated rules, the DFO said. “We have advised people to not consume alcohol in public places. Awareness programmes are frequently organised to save the hills. Moreover, in the upcoming days, the patrol teams will be increased to stop illegal activities here,” he assured.