Not long ago Veli and Akkulam were pushed as the two tourist highlights of Trivandrum district. As part of the push, it was conceived to modify the landscape suitably and a walkway was designed to be built from Veli tourist village to the national highway by-pass lying across the TS Canal. The walkway was to be 1.5 km long, with underground cables providing power to the electric lamps that were supposed to be installed every six meters.
At present, the 1.5 kilometers of the walking path has been constructed skirting the lake’s shore up till the TS Canal. But the walkway lies deserted during daytime and veiled in darkness during the night. Provisions have been made on the sidewall of the walkway to accommodate lampposts and plants, but they all remain hollow at the moment.
“The problem is that the area around Veli mostly lies abandoned because of the proximity of so many factories. If people have to enjoy their walk over the path, it needs to pass through a place that's lively, with shops, eateries and such. But passing through a barely inhabited area that ends abruptly in the middle of nowhere, is never going to help the project,” observes a DTPC official.
While the Akkulam – Veli projects are meant to promote district tourism, the walkway project, along with a four star floating restaurant presently functioning at Veli, were initiated by Kerala Tourism under a Rs.5 crore project in 2004. The original plan called for connecting Akkulam and Veli with a walkway. The present one from Veli to TS Canal was to have ended at a foot-overbridge which would connect the walkway with the national highway, and then to extend from there to Akkulam across the other side of the lake.
But the project still lies on paper, stored in a file that has been stacked away in a cabinet, safely locked and forgotten for good - or so it seems.
“The project would re-started this year,” said M S Venugopal, Deputy Director of Department of Tourism.
However, he wasn't prepared to state a date when the project would recommence.
“The proposal would be put up at the working committee meeting and it needs to be passed in the meeting before getting ahead with the dates,” he explains.
And the walkway has apparently reached its ending point, because...
“...there is no way you can build a walkway across the canal and reach Akkulam on the other side. The walkway was slated to end at the present point itself. Now the tiling and electrical work remain to be completed and are expected to be done soon.”
The walkway had been in the news some years before because of the picturesque location of a toddy shop, which was frequented by a good chunk of the youngsters in the city. The toddy shop now stands closed and the walkway is in danger of loosing itself to dense thicket that's gathering up on the sides. It is a haven for social miscreants and in many ways to the police personnel too, who get paid small amounts in bribe for letting go of people for their 'petty' offences.
The Veli Lake always presents a beautiful sight, but no average citizen would be able to enjoy a stroll through this walkway, which only manages to reflect desolation and intimidation to the walker. This region around Veli was once notorious for being the hub of anti-social elements and it was to negate this social threat that the project was mooted to convert the place into a tourism spot. And ironically, the incomplete lay out of a plan that is part of the same project is now aiding anti-social elements to thrive in the area.