Life in flood-hit Idukki is slowly limping back to normalcy but major tourist spots in this district are facing a serious threat. Over 10 lakh tourists were expected to arrive in the hill station of Munnar during the Neelakurinji flowering season. To welcome tourists, who were waiting to see this rare bloom, the Tourism Department and state government had made huge arrangements in Munnar. It’s the first time in 12 years that the Neelakurinji blooms, but for those who were hoping to see hills of Munnar covered in purplish-blue, they may have to wait a while. This as heavy rains and landslides have destroyed most roads and bridges in Idukki.
Key roads and bridges connecting the hills are now inaccessible or have been swept away in the rains and landslides. This includes, the Periyavara Bridge in Munnar which connects the Munnar-Udumalpet interstate route, that was destroyed due to a landslide. Eravikulam National Park, a major Neelakurinji hotspot located eight kms away from Munnar town has one of the main Kurinji flowering areas. But with the tourism sector taking a massive hit owing to the floods, some of the resorts and home stays in Munnar have been forced to terminate some of their staff.
Periyavara Bridge: Munnar-Marayoor route
"Over 600 resorts and hotels working in Munnar are facing a loss of over Rs 5 crore per day. The government should take immediate steps to resume the traffic in Munnar routes before the Neelakurinji season ends," says VV George, President, Munnar Hotel and Resorts Association (MHRA).
"First the Nipha Virus scare hit the monsoon tourism in Munnar and now the unexpected flood ruins our hopes. Many hotels and resorts are facing threat due to lack of tourist arrival. They may shut down soon. After the floods many Kurinji season bookings were cancelled," explains George.
The heavy rains and landslides had submerged Munnar town. Over 60 mudslides and landslides have occurred in and around Munnar for the last one week. Landslides have destroyed the Kochi-Dhanushkodi National Highway and Munnar-Udumalpet National Highway. The traffic has, however, partially resumed on the Kochi-Dhanushkodi National Highway.
Pallivasal-Munnar National Highway
Revenue officials also fear the future of the Neelakurinji season is at stake. "The Periyaravara Bridge, connecting Rajamala and Munnar was destroyed. It is difficult to rebuild the bridge and resume the traffic. Actually, we don't know how to manage the much-awaited Neelakurinji flowering season at Munnar," says PK Shaji, Devikulam Tehasildar.
Due to the heavy monsoon, the much-expected Neelakurinji flowering season had begun later. Earlier it was expected that the main flowering season will start in the second week of July and continue for the next three months. But now officials reveal that it will start in the first week of September." The flowering pattern has been totally isolated. Kurinji plants will bloom if it gets ten days of sunshine," says an official from Eravikulam National Park.
However, Devikulam MLA S Rajendaran has urged the Chief Minister to immediately intervene and construct the Bailey bridge at Periyavara near Munnar." Two agencies have since visited the spot.
A lodge following a landslide in Munnar
Thekkady, which is near the Periyar Natinal Park, is also facing similar issues. During the Neelakurinji season over 40% of tourist booking were expected in Thekkady. But following the floods, hotels say that their rooms are 90% vacant.
"Due to the flood, all the eco-tourism programs in Thekkady has been stopped. Most of the resorts and hotels have directed the staff to take leave to avoid the loss. We want the government take immediate steps to clear the roads and resume the traffic," says Thekkady Tourism Destination Promotion Council (TDPC) Chairman Babu K Elias.
This article has been produced in partnership with Oxfam India. In the last 10 years, Oxfam India has delivered over 36 impactful humanitarian responses in India. Oxfam India is providing critical relief to the affected families and communities in Kerala: clean drinking water, sanitation, and shelter kits. Click here to help #RebuildKerala.