Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bekal as Tourism Destination

The Bekal Fort is preceded by a colorful history of over 300 years, is the largest in the state of Kerala with its outer wall projecting into the raging Arabian Sea. Gods own land Bekal area is blessed with beautiful beaches and rivers , green nature and people living with communal harmony and peace.

In 1992 the Government of India declared Bekal as a special tourism area along with five other destinations to develop as an international beach destination. In tune with central government, Kerala Govt. proceeded with the proposal and planned to invest 1000 crores in Bekal by private-public partnership.

Bekal Resorts Development Corporation Ltd (BRDC) – Project implementing Company
In the year 1995, the Govt. of Kerala formed Bekal Tourism Development Corporation (BRDC) with the Chief Secretary to Government of Kerala as the Chairman, senior Government officials as Directors and Managing Director to develop Bekal as an international standard Beach Tourist Destination. BRDC along with the private partners has invested more than 500 crores for developing Bekal as an International tourist destination with good infrastructure facilities without affecting the local community. Other than this, indirect investment like 150 crores Kasaragod - Kanhangad state highway development by KSTP and other agencies are also underway.

BRDC focuses on planned, environment-friendly and ecologically viable methods of development. The company concentrated on setting up comprehensive tourism infrastructure, at the same time ensuring that the development is beneficial to the local community.

The Company has acquired about 235 acres of land in different Panchayats of the project area for developing into six resort sites. Apart from Resort Sites, development of public beaches for general public, recreation centers, infrastructure development like a 7MLD water supply scheme, road networks, power supply etc. have also been taken up and completed.

Bekal Tourism Project – A Retrospection and suggestion for improvement

Last year tourist statistics says out of 10 lack foreigners visited Kerala only 1000 tourists visited Kasaragod district including Bekal. BRDC has aimed to increase the present tourist arrival of 3.5 lack visitors (domestic and foreign) to 6.00 lakhs, it could not reach the target.

Special Tourism Area benefits:

It is important to note that, even though Bekal has been declared by Government of India as “Special Tourism Area”, no special benefits or incentives from Government of India has been received by Bekal Tourism so far. Hence, efforts should be taken to extent the Special Tourism Area benefits, if any, to Bekal Tourism Project which will boost tourism especially private investment.

Long 22 years have been gone after the declaration of Bekal Tourism Project. It shows that it is the time to review and take necessary steps on complete and incomplete projects, sanctioned fund which has not yet spend and other proposals which have not taken place or in the half way stage, in order to increase the tourist traffic to Bekal thereby improving revenue to Government.

The BRDC has acquired about 235 acres of land in different Panchayats of the project area for developing into six resort sites. Initially BRDC team succeeded in convincing the importance and potential of Bekal to 6 hoteliers to invest in various resorts sites. All the resort sites have been allotted to the developers. Out of the six, two Resorts have already started operation namely Lalith Resorts and Spa, Bekal, Vivanta by Taj, Bekal .They successfully running its operation. What about the rest of four resorts?

Status of 4 Incomplete Resorts:

1) Jamshedpur-based Globe Link Hotels and Entertainment finished its most of the work and only finishing work is pending. Even though, they had assured that they will open its 150-room hotel by 2015, due to some unexpected financial crisis made them to stop the work. Once their crisis is over they will finish the work. They are seeking good partners or financial assistance from various agencies so that they can finish the work and start functioning.
2) Green Gateway Leisure Ltd, the hospitality division of Thiruvananthapuram-based travel group, Air Travel Enterprises, with around 155 rooms was expected to open by 2015. After completing 75 percent of the work they stopped.
3) Ernakulum-based Holiday Bekal Resorts had stopped work for long time after completing 50% of the construction.
​4) One other site which is comparatively less development area at Kolavayal in Ajanoor Panchayat where the hotelier withdrawn the project because of the difficulty of getting permission for constructions due to CRZ restrictions.

Govt. of Kerala has invested huge amount of money to develop these sites by acquiring acres of land and developing road to these sites. some of these resorts are struck up with financial Crisis. Others are stopped their work for some other reasons. Huge amount of money invested by these hoteliers by trusting the Govt. They invested crores in these sites and needs to get the return for their investment. There should support be and should be fruitful discussion with the lessees of incomplete resorts and find the solution. Some may need investment from out side or they may need easy facility for loan from any other institutions .Others may have their own problems. Whatever it is, matter should be discussed and find a solution to complete these resorts and should be functional at earliest.

Bekal Fort 

Bekal Fort is under Archeological Survey India. Govt. is developing this International tourist destination in the name of Bekal. Dept. of Archeological Survey of India was asked to prepare a detail project report for the development activities of Bekal Fort .It still under process and should be prepare it and impliment at the earliest. Thousands of people visit Bekal Fort every day. Infra structure facilities in Bekal Fort is very worst. Just 200 meter away there is a fine state highway which is developed by Kerala Govt. as a KSTP project by using World Bank Fund. Even after 200 m Bekal fort –State highway connection road is not improved .This road should be developed with one way pedestrian path ,drainage and street lights by reducing the unwanted height in the road. This will give a wonderful experience to the visitors of Bekal Fort. Bekal Fort Jn. Bus stand in KSTP road is not having sufficient bus waiting shelter for the visitors. KSTP started construction of small weather shade as Bus waiting shelter on both side. But it is not pretty much enough. At Bekal Fort Jn. and fort entrance nobody can have a feel of International tourist destination. Beautification of this junction with sculpture like model of Bekal Fort and landscape garden will give more attraction. High mast light is required in Bekal Fort Jn. for light up the junction.

Road from Bekal Fort to Beach park: At the initial stage, there was a proposal from BRDC to develop a 500m road starting from water tank on Bekal Fort road through Ice plant to open beach and Bekal Beach Park etc. but not executed. Now it is the right time to re open the proposal. There are many advantages if we develop this road. In Beach park area ,apart from beach park , a new south park is going to open. KTDC hotel situated in beach park area . Also hopefully Bekal Fort will be opened at night for Light and sound show . This will increase the revenue for both destinations at a time and reduce the traffic on public holidays on both the spots through KSTP road.

Light and sound Show at Bekal Fort: Tourism department given work order to BNA technologies in August 2016 for 3.80 Crores for installing light and sound show in Bekal Fort to attract the more visitors and tourists and run the fort up to late hours. Now the Bekal Fort is open only till 6’o clock, denying the tourists the view of splendid sun set from the ramparts. Sanction from the Archeological Survey of India light and sound show is pending with Archeological survey of India. Pressure from the Govt. is required to get the final approval. Once if it is installed ,the running profit will be shared by the Dept.of Archeology and Tourism department of Kerala. Kannur fort has installed and started functioning the light and sound show. They are succeeded in increasing the revenue of the fort .

Thanal Vishrama Kendram :Near Bekal Fort BRDC has set up Thanal Vishrama Kendram. It was leased out to a party for last 7 years and they have been running an accommodation cum resort facilities. But after the expiry of the lease, the Unit has not been lease out which is resulting huge revenue loss to Government. There should be an immediate action to re tender Thanal and start functioning in order to increase the revenue for Govt.

Bekal Beach Park: Bekal Beach park is developed by BRDC and one of the main tourist spot generating revenue for the Govt. from Bekal apart from Bekal Fort. Last year park was leased for Rs.1.60 lacks +GST per month and this year for 5.11 lacks +GST per month. Even after increase in the lease amount authorities didn’t increase the facility in the park. Park is open from the morning to 7am-7pm. Day time it is difficult to enjoy the beauty of the park and beach due to the sun light. There should be semi permanent umbrella like structure for the shades. There is small canal in between Beach park and KTDC property. It is became dirty and it can be utilized by cleaning and make use for river boating. Road to the park is not improved with pedestrian path, Drainage ,foot path and street lights. Developing a road from western side of Railway station to the park will be an easy access to the visitors coming by rail transport.

Hostel and Dormitory Facilities: We all knew that there more than 4 lack people visit Bekal Fort every year and are targeting 7 lack per year .Govt. Spend so many crores in surrounding areas for infra structure facility. Even though Bekal belt is still lacking enough such facilities. One main thing is that here we don’t have youth hostel like dormitories . Due to the lack of Dormitory and hostel domestic tourists coming as a group from different states are leaving the place before sun set. If authorities take initiative and support , Youth hostel like organizations will set up such facilities ..

BRDC Office: BRDC office is working in Palakkunnu town in a rental building which is 4km away from Bekal. Corporation’s most of the developing premises and tourist and visitors are coming directly to visit Bekal Fort and Beach park. BRDC planned to construct own office at Pallikera opposite to petrol pump and Govt. Sanctioned one Crore and work not yet started. With immediate effect before lapsing the amount , work should be started. Till then office can be shifted to Bekal to give more attention to the developments of this international tourist destination. Unless Bekal Fort and surroundings are developed there will not be any scope of tourism in neighboring panchayats.

Pallikera PHC: Now Pallikera PHC is situated in a beautiful place from where can we see entire Fort and Bekal beach. There was a proposal from BRDC to re locate the PHC to a land which is adjacent to proposed BRDC office site. So that existing PHC property can be converted to some tourist related ventures. In exchanging the property, years back BRDC assured 35 lacks for the development of PHC . Now the people and leaders been demanded BRDC that at least one crore must be handed over to PHC for more development in return of valuable existing PHC land. Fisheries dept. Sanctioned 1.87crore and started the construction of PHC in BRDC land. More blocks can be constructed with BRDC contribution.

Cultural Center: Govt. spent more than 5 Crores and constructed the many buildings at Thachangad which is ready to open and action is not taken for its inauguration. Hopefully Govt. will take further steps to open Cultural center for public.

Bekal Airstrip : Govt. planned to develop a airstrip at Periya which was a great idea to bring tourists by air to Bekal. This has withdrawn by the report of CIAL which said this air strip is not economical. Once if the tourists start coming to Bekal every one knows that this airstrip will make profit. Also Central University of Kerala also will get the advantage of this Airstrip.

KTDC-Bekal Beach Camp: KTDC planned to construct 25 cottages near to Bekal Beach Park
about 10 years back . At present they construct only six cottages. Tourism Dept. Sectioned one crore for developing a Road to South park and Beach Camp but work didn’t start yet.

Bekal South Beach Park: Harbor Engineering wing develop this park by using 4 Crores by using Tsunami fund. For the rest of the work Govt. Sanctioned 1.38 Crores and 1.10 Crores for electrification. If we effectively use the sanctioned amount and open this project ,it will attract more tourist and visitors to Bekal. But unfortunately authorities didn’t spend even a single rupee from this . Intelligent Department send a report to the Govt. to open the park at the earliest. But nothing happened.

Trikkannad Beach Park: Trikkannad Beach park is developed by using 50 lacks. This park is leased out and leased party has started the work for open it for the public.

Bekal Fort Railway station: The only development taken place in Bekal Fort railway station is, its name changed from Pallikera to Bekal Fort. This station is very near to Bekal Fort. Previously Govt. asked BRDC to submit a design and proposal to the Kerala Govt. to convert the Railway station to a tourist railway station. But still the proposal is pending .From Udma MLA Sri.Kunhirman’s local fund 132 lacks has been sanctioned for one side platform heightening and 15 lacks for road improvement to the station from KSTP road .This station is lacking waiting room ,separate toilet for ladies ,parking yard etc. By approaching and coordinating with the Railway Department and Tourism department can create such facilities.

​Kottikulam Railway Over Bridge: There is railway crossing passing through Kottikulam railway station . 500 rooms in 4 resorts(completed and in completed) are situated around the station .Palakunnu Bagavathi Temple is situated just opposite to the station. Thousands of pilgrims visit this temple for famous Bharani Mahotsav. In order to avoid crossing through the station Govt. acquired land, Railway dept. sanctioned 10 crores and State Govt. approved 10 crores for the construction of ROB. Appreciation to people’s MLA Sri. Kunhiraman for his remarkable effort. This ROB should complete without any delay by coordinating with Railway Department.

Kappil ,Koppal ,Kovval and Janma Beach.: Tourism department and BRDC popularised Kappil beach without developing infra structure like narrow road in to wider one ,Sanitation and parking facilities, rest room etc. there are another three beaches Koppal, Kovval and Janma which is within 500m area. Beach side area is swallowed by sea every year and there should construct a protection wall which can be done even by the Dept. Of Harbor Engineering without affecting the tourism .Interesting fact is that two running resorts Thaj Vivanta and The Lalith Bekal is on its both the ends.BRDC developed two separate macadam road to both the resorts but not improved existing 1.5 KM connection road .If we improve this existing 1.5 KM Thaj-Lalith connection road to approach above said 4 beaches with sufficient infra structure, It will be one other major tourist spot in Bekal.

Development of water ways: Kasargaod is blessed with beautiful backwaters and rivers. Government has already announced development of North Malabar waterways project. In tune with this, the backwater of Bekal also to be developed for boating and water sports activities.

CRZ and Archeological restrictions: It is the major hurdles to get permission for land or building construction near by costal area in and around Bekal Fort due to the protected monument Act and CRZ restrictions. Goa and Kerala backwater area has been notified as the special costal area and relaxed the CRZ limitations for tourism. Beautiful costal area around Bekal Fort is limited .If State and Central Govt. together work for such amendment for getting relaxation for land development on CRZ and protected monument Act. area around Bekal Fort ,there will be drastic progress will be in the tourism sector.

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