Konni set to receive jumbo lovers
Thiruvananthapuram, Jun 4: Konni, known for its majestic wild elephants and an elephant training centre, is all set to receive jumbo lovers, trekkers and nature lovers in less than three months.
Projected as a major eco-tourist destination after Thenamala, Konni is gearing up to be a role model for other similar forest- based eco-tourism development initiatives, aiming at developing positive economic stakes among local people with regard to conservation of natural resources,'' Eco tourism director KG Mohan Lal told sources.
The Konni eco tourism project, which has an ''elephant focus,'' situated about 100 km from the capital, has been worked out focusing on the elephant link and capturing the verdant greenery, unique topographic and ecological features.
''It is the local people, through the Vana Samrakshana Samiti (VSS), who organise eco-tourism programmes with technical assistance from the forest department. Apart from providing financial benefits, this will also empower the local population,'' Mr Mohan Lal added.
Historically, Konni is closely identified with elephants and elephant stories, and no other place in southern Kerala is so linked to elephants. For this reason, the project with an elephant focus had been considered to be an innovative initiative in eco-tourism, he noted and said, ''here it is seen that the local people are benefited, which is one of the aims of ecotourism.'' The programmes here are conceived in such a way that there will be ''familiarisation and soft eco-tourism zones and activities'' and ''real eco-tourism products'' envisaged in interior forest areas. The products will be managed by the VSS, which would be a committee of local people, he pointed out.
The developments here are envisaged to make it sustainable so that the uniqueness and tranquility of the place is left undisturbed, Mr Mohanlal said. Pointing out that the project ought to have completed now but for the assembly elections, he hoped Konni could have a place in the eco-tourism map by August.
The entire project is envisaged in four phases. Though the project has been divided into phases, it was actually a continuous process as the phases were all connected with each other, he said.
During the first phase, the Elephant camp, the focal point at Konni, is now nearing completion. This includes an Elephant Museum, pathways, exhibition area workshop, elephant ride and elephant cage, mahouts shed, Elephant area, bio-gas plant and paper manufacturing plant.
The tourists visiting Konni will have a first hand experience of how captured wild elephants are trained in the huge wooden elephant cages.
The building for housing the Elephant museum was complete but the actual work inside the Museum was yet to start. The Kerala Forest Research Institute, the curators of Museum, had started the work, Mr Mohanlal said and added it would be completed very soon. The Bio-gas plant, using the elephant dung and urine, was expected to be completed next year. The first paper manufacturing unit from Elephant dung would be started once the equipment from Sri Lanka reaches. All the infrastructure works were complete, he said.
The Elephant camp would also house a mini theatre, where films and documentaries related to elephants would be shown.
The second phase, includes developments at Kottappara, a place near Konni, which was being developed for trekking.
In the third phase, a trekking path to Neduvathumoozhy would be developed. Neduvathumoozhy, Janaval and Kummanor would also be made good for riverine activities during this phase, he said. The last phase involves development of cottages for tourists and the renovation of the Inspection bungalow at Neduvathumoozhy.
Apart from the Elephant rides, soft treks, the other programmes chalked out include a visit to the nearby waterfalls on rock tops and to Achenkovil river. The final Konni project would be an integration of all these which he hoped would be completed next year.
However, Mr Mohanlal, who feels that tourism should benefit the local people, said VSS people were being trained for taking up the works at Konni. As per estimates, the project would generate direct employment to 200 persons and another 400 indirectly in the initial years.