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Tourism here will soon see greater participation of the local fishermen community

Developing Chinna Veerampattinam as eco-tourism spot is focus of project

panoramic view:Chinna Veerampattinam Beach
with backwater, in Puducherry

Rows of coconut groves swaying in the breeze split the two flanks of a backwater beyond stretching over smooth, white sand, intermittently lapped by frolicking waves.

Chinna Veerampattinam, a lesser-known place a few kilometres from Puducherry, may soon become a model of participatory tourism managed by the local community.

Sandwiched between its more popular cousins, the Periya Veerampattinam beach and the Paradise Beach (Chunnambar), the relatively secluded beach draws lesser number of people. But the local community here, who are largely fisherfolk, have seen their quiet village grow into a sought-after weekend haunt, in the years after the tsunami.

“There are hundreds of people here in the weekends. Some of them cross over from Paradise Island. Of late, we are seeing film crews shooting song sequences here,” says Radjou, a fisherman.

With primary access to the beach here being through the village, developing it as an eco-tourism spot, which can provide livelihood to the local community, is the focus of a new project, which is supported by the Tourism Department and funded by Ille-et-Vilaine, a region in France, as part of its memorandum with the Puducherry government.

Beach tourism and responsible tourism are among the areas of cooperation agreed in the memorandum and Rs. 36 lakh has been allotted for this initiative, according to Muruganandam Mandjiny, local representative of Ille-et-Vilaine.

“We are simply strengthening tourism by making it organised and responsible,” says Mr. Mandjiny, explaining that drawing new tourists is not the idea. The limited budget does not allow for putting up brick structures and the planned development will be carried out with minimal disruption, he assures.

Fishermen could offer catamaran rides in the backwaters, young men can work as lifeguards and freshly caught fish could be fried and served at the spot are some of the suggestions that the core team has come up with.

The team includes members of the fishermen’s federation, women’s self-help groups and youth clubs, who have received expert inputs from Equations, a Bangalore-based organisation.

“Huge development projects are usually met with opposition as support of the local community is not elicited. We have taken time to understand the needs of the community and solicit their opinions on what may work best for them,” explains Mr. Mandjiny.

“We have to renovate one of the community toilets for public use and ensure both the beach and the paths through the groves are cleaner,” says Annamalai who went on an arranged exposure visit for the project to Mahabalipuram and Kovalam.

“It was the first time I saw sun beds and umbrellas and the beach was well maintained,” says Selvam, another fisherman.

Selvam feels that it is time to introduce organised paid parking as vehicles are parked haphazardly in the village.

“The project has to be locally sustainable and managed by the community,” says Augustin Jayakumar, director, INDP, the NGO implementing the project.

Source : The Hindu, Pondicherry edition, dated 28th May 2014 reported by Ms. Olympia Shilpa Gerald.