As the cold wave continues over south India, the hills and tea plantations of Munnar in Kerala witnessed a blanket of frost on Monday as the temperature dipped to -4 degrees Celsius.
The hill station, which is slowly recovering from the impacts of two disasters – the Kerala floods and Cyclone Gaja – is enjoying an influx of tourists because of the cold weather. While Chenduvara recorded -4 degree Celsius, Periavurrai, Silent Valley, Kanniamallay and Sevenmallay recorded -2 degree Celsius on Monday.
Spike in tourism
Tourist footfall has increased in the past two weeks, with the main attraction being the frost-covered surroundings. The hills and valleys of Kannimala, Chenduvara, Chittuvara, Sevenvalley, Nallathanni and Munnar town were covered in frost over the weekend.
"We got a good number of bookings in the last two weeks. After the floods and landslides, the Christmas season and the freezing weather has made a difference to the tourism sector in Munnar,” said Aju Abraham Mathew, the General Manager of Tall Trees Resort in Munnar.
Munnar Hotel and Resorts Association President VV George also agreed with Aju and said, "A lot of tourists reached Munnar to enjoy the frost-covered hills and enjoy the climate. Most of the hotels and resorts are fully booked in the last two weeks and have good number of bookings for the coming days. We hope the tourist arrivals will continue in the next weeks."
However, the frequent hartals in the state have failed to aid the spike in tourist arrivals to the town. While Aju said that the hartals and strikes affect the industry, George added that even if hotels decided to function on hartal days, they tend to get attacked by the supporters of the hartals. “In the last hartal, many tourists cancelled their trips in Munnar. Our request is that the government take steps to exempt the tourism sector from hartals and strikes," he said.
Continued frost worries tea plantation owners
Though the freezing weather and picturesque locations have brought cheer to people in the tourism industry, the people dependent on tea plantations in the region are anxious due to the mounting losses for each day of chilly weather.
According to Kanan Devan Hills Plantations (KDHP) officials, tea leaves wilt away due to heavy frosting. "Tea leaves grown in the 870 hectares belonging to Kanan Devan Hills Plantations are wilting away due to the cold weather in the region. The damaged tea leaves could weigh around 27.47 lakh kgs which translates into 6.75 lakh kgs of black tea," said an official from KDHP.
Apart from Munnar, many places in Tamil Nadu are also witnessing a drastic decline in temperatures. Valparai, Ooty and Kodaikkanal recorded single-digit temperatures last week and other interior districts of Tamil Nadu like Vellore and Krishnagiri also bore the brunt of chilly weather.