CHENNAI – Move over eco-tourism, tsunami tourism is here. The Tamil Nadu government is considering options to turn tsunami-affected villages into memorials of the disaster that killed thousands along the Indian coast on December 26, 2004.
The aim is to preserve the memories of pre-tsunami days and educate visitors about the devastating impact the disaster had on these places. Tsunami tourism will also prevent these places from being completely forgotten.
Areas like Mamallapuram, Poompuhar, Marina, MGR Thittu and Chinnavaykal, which bore the brunt of killer waves, are proposed to be developed – in association with the local administration – as places of tourist interest. “We will partly fund the projects,” said Tamil Nadu’s tourism secretary, Irai Anbu.
As the first step, the Cuddalore district administration has identified Chinnavaykal and MGR Thittu – two islands vacated by fishermen after the tsunami – as potential locations to be developed into tourist attractions. The tourism department is planning to obtain funds under the eco-tourism category to develop these islands.
Ravichandran, the president of Killai town panchayat under which the tsunami-affected islands fall, said the panchayat has submitted a Rs 5 crore proposal to the district administration to build a theme park on MGR Thittu island.
”The park will preserve memories of the disaster and educate students and tourists about the damage a tidal wave can cause to coastal areas. We don’t want these places to be forgotten in the future, like the ancient port of Poompuhar, which was said to be destroyed by a tsunami wave,” Ravichandran said.
Last month, the district administration and the tourism department jointly held “Vidiyal Vizha” — or the dawn festival — at Chinnavaykal, where the sunrise is spellbinding. The island has a unique feature: Visitors can view the sunrise as well as the sunset.
The dawn festival was held there for the first time in 2004, the year the tsunami struck, killing 46 on the island. The administration thought of reviving the event in 2007 but could not because of inclement weather.
This year, the festival, which comprises fairs, folk dances and other forms of entertainment, drew more than 5,000 people from villages and towns. The town panchayat also spent Rs 3.5 lakh, while Rs 1 lakh was given by the tourism department.