The Kerala High Court had restricted entry to the ecologically fragile spot in 2019, after the Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samithi approached the court.

A river flowing amid rich green plants and trees, some part of the day sky is visible on topKuruva Island/ Courtesy - Vinayaraj / Wiki Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Features Tourism Sunday, April 11, 2021 - 15:36

On Saturday, the Kuruva Island — comprising a cluster of islets — in Wayanad was opened to the public after two years. In March 2019, the Kerala High Court had directed that entry be restricted to Soochipara waterfalls, Kuruva islets, Chembra peak, and the Meenmutty waterfalls at Padinharethara, all major tourist destinations in Wayanad.

The ecotourism destinations were closed after Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samithi, an NGO for the protection of forests and the environment, had approached the court seeking intervention to control the environmental damage caused by tourism activities in these places.

Recently, the High Court removed the stay order and allowed for the reopening of the ecotourism spot. The decision was taken after the forest department filed a report that they have ensured that all the required measures to protect the ecologically vulnerable destination are in place.

The department said that the Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding, Coimbatore, had conducted a study and recommended that only 1,150 visitors could be allowed to visit the destination per day.

Kuruvadweep / Photo courtesy - Kerala Tourism

However, Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samithi is not happy about the reopening of the islets.

"As per the rules, ecotourism should be conducted only in protected areas, not in territorial areas. But in Kerala, they have been doing it [in territorial areas]. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has directed that all states should have guidelines for ecotourism. Kerala does not have that yet," N Badusha, president, Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samithi told TNM.

The group had earlier filed a writ petition saying these tourist spots never had a carrying capacity study done and there were no guidelines. Considering the petition the High Court had ordered the temporary closure of five such spots in South Wayanad Forest Division. 

Protected river delta on Kabani river / Courtesy - Challiyan / Wiki Commons / CC0

"This ecotourism brings in huge income. Crores of rupees have been generated from these spots. But guidelines are very necessary for the functioning of an ecotourism spot. People who visit should be aware," said Badusha.

"Now the carrying capacity study they have conducted is not proper, though they submitted that in court. We asked for an amicus curiae, that was not sanctioned. Finally, the stay was vacated. The HC also said that we can approach the Green Tribunal regarding this," he added.

He said that while they can now approach the apex court or Green Tribunal for further action, due to financial constraints, they had to plan on how to move forward.

Kuruvadweep or Kuruva Island consists of  64 islets, which has a collection of rare flora, fauna, plants, microorganisms, birds and butterflies. Entry to the public is allowed on only 20 hectares of one of the islets.

Read: Deserted homestays, jobless boatmen: Tourism in Kerala’s Munroe Island hit hard

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