Authorities have initiated steps to turn Kollam beach into an international tourist destination. The objective is to develop Kollam beach into a safe tourist spot without losing out on its natural beauty.
The Detailed Project Report (DPR) for this will be prepared by the Kerala State Coastal Area Development Corporation (KSCADC) along with the IIT Madras. The DPR will be drawn up within 3 months.
The main challenge is to avert the ‘hidden risks’ of the beach, along with the beautification project to attract global tourists. The Coastal Area Development Corporation has been allotted Rs 15 lakh to carry out a study on this. The DPR will be prepared based on this.
During a meet held in Kollam the other day, the steps to prepare the DPR were initiated. IIT Madras oceanography department chief professor Sanyasraj, tourism deputy director D Kamalamma, KSCADC executive engineer I G Shilu, DTPC secretary Ramya R Kumar along with the Kollam corporation standing committee chairpersons, corporation and coastal development corporation officials participated in the meet.
Earlier, an expert team from the KSCADC and the IIT Madras had visited the beach, and put forward the preliminary technical and commercial proposals to make the beach a risk-free spot. The corporation gave approval for this, and tasked the KSCADC to carry out the study and prepare the DPR.
As a result of the recent renovation works, the length of the beach has increased by 1km. But tourists are venturing out beyond this distance. Only three or four staff have been tasked for carrying out the rescue efforts in the area. There were eight lifeguards with four each deployed for duty every other day. But as not even insurance is provided, one staff quit the job recently. Eight lifeguards are required to be on duty here at a time.
More depth near the beach
Unlike most of the other beaches, the Kollam beach has more depth. At other beaches in the state, it is a gradual incline towards the sea. But here it is a straight drop and even close to the shore, the depth is 4mt, posing a risk to the tourists. Due to the man-made hurdles such as structure of the harbour, tourism, and fishing, the waves are rough. In such a scenario, a sustainable project is being prepared to make the beach safe.
During the meet held last week, IIT Madras oceanography department emeritus professor V Sundar suggested placing a geo tube in the water at a specific distance from the shore to minimise the impact of the rough waves. Thus, safety can be ensured at the beach. If the risk factors can be overcome, then the Kollam beach has huge potential for development, including tourism. He also said that the study report will be submitted within two months
Various beach tourism activities such as sea cruise, and beach sports can be introduced here, KSCADC MD P A Sheik Pareeth said. The main objective of the DPR is to prepare a sustainable development plan to make Kollam beach tourism friendly by turning it into a hazard-free spot.
Safety to be ensured: Mayor
Kollam Mayor Prasanna Earnest said that the depth will be reduced to ensure the safety of the visitors at the beach. She was speaking at a meet held in connection with the sustainable development plan of the beach.
“The beach here has more depth than other beaches in the state. Therefore, the risk factor is also higher. The Coastal Area Development Corporation was given Rs 15 lakh to conduct a study to ensure the safety of the people coming to the beach.”
Upon receiving the study report, the Coast Area Development Corporation will prepare the DPR and submit it to the government for approval. Along with reducing the depth, the project also aims to ease the turbulence of the waves. Beautification and water sports activities will be launched to attract tourists. The Mayor further said that the objective is for the timely completion of the project and to make the sustainable beach development a reality.
To be major attraction
Kollam MLA M Mukesh said that the project will safeguard the livelihood of the fisherfolk. “The aim is to transform the beach to be the major attraction of Kollam town. This is the first such detailed project in the state, aiming for beach development,” he added.
97 lives lost
As many as 97 lives were lost in 10 years at the beach. And 57 people died here in seven years. The number of people who have had a narrow escape are much higher. In recent times, over 16 tourists have been caught in the waves. Lifeguard Ratheesh said that at least one person gets caught in the rip current in a week. The daring efforts made by the life guards, without paying much heed to their own safety, have saved several lives here.
Nearby park in disrepair
Even when talks are ongoing about developing the beach, a nearby park is in a dilapidated state. As the Mahatma Gandhi Park remained shut during the Covid pandemic, the children’s play equipment got damaged. Not just the play equipment, but musical fountain, statue of a mermaid, and a garden built on the model of the famous Vrindavan Garden in Mysore have all fallen into disrepair. The park was overrun by wilderness during the pandemic, and now with summer setting in, the plants and bushes have dried up, painting a dismal picture.
Facilities were also set up to seat 400 people. The park, which is owned by the corporation, is run on a contract-basis.