Kerala made a major stride in tourism today when the government completed the first phase of the ambitious Alappuzha Heritage Project (AHP), opening four major initiatives and starting work on nine others. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated the renovated Port Museum and Soukar Masjid buildings, besides a new Miyawaki forest and the rejuvenated canal (first phase).
The function, which was organized virtually, also saw the laying of the foundation for nine AHP initiatives. They comprised Beach beautification, renovation of the 150-year-old sea-bridge, a new Maritime Signal Museum, Heritage Museum, a new office for the State Coir Corporation, Gandhi Museum, Canal Rejuvenation (second phase), conservation of the historical Leo XIII School and a new Port Museum. Present at the event, which was presided over by Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran, were his cabinet colleagues Dr T M Thomas Isaac, Ramachandran Kadannappalli, G Sudhakaran, K Krishnankutty and P Thilothaman.
The inauguration function and the foundation-laying ceremonies, conducted across seven venues of Alappuzha keeping the COVID-19 protocol, were streamed live for public viewing. “We are through with phase-1. Once the entire project gets over, Alappuzha will regain its good old grandeur,” Chief Minister said. “We lost it over the decades owing to a lack of civic sense.” The Rs 208.25-crore AHP aims to give an overall facelift to the ‘Venice of the East’ by remodifying 20 museums, 11 memorials and five public places. Implemented with the guidance of Muziris Project Ltd, the project has Rs 162 crore coming from Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board. The other contributors are Department of Tourism (Rs 35 crore), Department of Coir (Rs 10 crore) and Department of Harbour (Rs 1.25 crore).
Also opened today was a painting camp being organised by the state’s Lalithakala Academi. It features top artists, whose works will be exhibited at the Port Museum. Minister Surendran said AHP shows the government’s determination to strengthen tourism and fight back a slump in the sector amid Covid-19. Dr Isaac, who is also the Alappuzha MLA, said AHP will give the city fresh lease of life. “Tourists do come to this place in big numbers, but leave the same day. Local tourism can get a boost if they stay overnight,” he noted. “For that, we need to give them a reason. It is here in the form of the new AHP initiatives.”
Kadannappalli, who is Minister for Ports, Museum and Archaeology, threw light on the historicity of Alappuzha, wishing early completion of AHP. Thilothaman, who is in charge of Food and Civil Supplies, and Krishnankutty, who holds the portfolio of Water Resources, highlighted the role of clean canals in decking up Alappuzha. The renovated Port Museum occupies 10 acres of land adjacent to the Old Port Office complex in the city. Soukar Masjid has been a place of worship of the trading Halai community of Muslims who migrated from Porbandar in Gujarat in the 19th century. The afforestation project, near the Port Museum, was carried out as per the method by nonagenarian Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki. The first phase of the canal rejuvenation cost Rs 30 crore.
The upcoming Heritage Museum will use the warehouse property of the erstwhile Seth Brothers. The Gandhi Museum, which is to come up in the godown of Madura Company, will be the country’s first “comprehensive” memorial for the Mahatma, who had visited Kerala twice. The second phase of the canal renovation project will cost Rs 14 crore. The 1888-founded Leo XIII School, which is being conserved, is in memory of Pope Leo XIII who headed the Roman Catholic Church during 1878-1903.