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This project was conceived with the intention of managing some of the exotic locations in forest area so that the nature enthusiasts can come and enjoy them in the scenic and natural settings. The interesting thing about this approach is the assurance public participation in the management of scenic locations. When people are involved in its management, they don't feel like disturbing the settings that they have been trying hard to safeguard. This type of forest management is called eco-tourism. As part of this project, the vast tract of lush green forests on the banks of the Achen Kovil River are preserved and development of Konni Elephant Camp as a Facilitation Centre is undertaken. The nucleus of this whole project is an Elephant. This project is jointly conceived and developed by the Kerala Forest and the Kerala Tourism departments under the expert guidance. Since the inception, the project has been a huge success with the tourists due to the local participation.
Konni Forest Area
The remote village of Konni in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala has a large repository of biodiversity. Looking at the lush vegetation the former Maharajah of Travancore constituted the area into Konni Reserve Forest. It was done to prevent the encroachment of the forest land by people in the name of development. Therefore, this forest is considered as one of the oldest forest reserves in the southern state of Kerala. This move has even today a great significance when the forest trees are being felled to make room for more development. With local participation, the government departments have been able to successfully execute and maintain the forest area. In turn, this has helped the authorities to develop the exotic areas in the deep forest as an ideal tourist destination. Many of these areas can only be accessed by trekking. Hence, those exotic locations have never been touched with the vagaries of modernity.
Since the eco-tourism project is focused on preserving the elephants, the authorities handling it started facilities that help people to have closer interaction with the animal. With this intention in mind, the authorities have developed activities like elephant viewing, elephant ride, elephant bathing, elephant riding, etc. Encouraged the responses of the visitors, the authorities handling the project have set up an elephant museum. This museum has been developed as a complete natural history museum based on the life cycle of elephants.
Efforts for Environment Preservation
The whole Elephant-based project has been developed as a Zero Waste Centre. The elephant dung is collected and used as the raw material for the production of biogas. The wastes that accumulate after the production of biogas become rich in fibres. The leftover part of the waste is then made into pulp so that it can be used to make paper. This is truly an eco-friendly product. The plastic wastes that lie littered in the project area is going to be recycled in an eco-friendly way. The processing plant for the same is being planned. The care is taken within the project area to allow only the sale of non-wood forest products through the outlets. They also sell other eco-friendly materials to the visitors in the area. The trekking route has been laid in such a manner that the movement of wildlife has not been affected in any manner. The climate and the environment have joined hands in providing the right settings for the development of a wide variety of plants, especially the medicinal plants. Some of the medicinal plants are unique to this region.
Trekking Through Forests
Various sites within the forest area have been well developed. These areas promote eco-tourism activities. These centres of activities can be assessed only through trekking in the forests. The visitors can do trekking for a little over 4 hours to reach the locations like Chavarpandy, Peruvally, Kurichi, etc. These locations are in evergreen forests found deep on the Western Ghats. The trekkers say that Peruvally located on the banks of Kallar River is an enchanting location for body relaxation. Then, there are other locations that can be reached only by trekking for a day. They include Kottampara, Kattathi and Aluvamkudy. En route to this place, one can find the sylvan forests. There is a rejuvenating waterfall deep inside the forest in Achen Kovil. It is known to trekkers as Manalar-Kumbhavurutty waterfalls.
Deep inside the project area, one can find the aboriginals who belong to Malampandaram tribe. The members of the tribe follow a unique ethnic culture. They have been known to develop architectural and sculptural skills. This is the reason why trekkers could see the remains of very old temples deep inside the forests. Some are even seen near the inaccessible tracts. Looking at these structures, one would wonder how they mobilized the required materials for their construction. The tribal people have learned to use the medicinal plants and herbs that grow in their neighbourhood to great effect. Their treatment system looks more developed than those of other tribal populations found elsewhere in the state. Some of the youngsters from the tribe are employed by the authorities as tourist guides so that the visitors don't get lost in the vastness of the forest while doing the trekking.
Konni Eco-tourism project is developed by the state government to stop the illegal poaching of animals and deforestation in the forest areas of the Western Ghats in Pathanamthitta. The idea of developing the area into an eco-friendly forest occurred to the former Maharajah of erstwhile Travancore. Hence, he brought several areas of the Western Ghats under one umbrella for better maintenance. He called it as the Konni Forest Reserve. Several years later, more forest areas were brought under this project and converted into an Eco-tourism project. This project is conceived with the participation of the public in mind. The aim was to put the mantle of environmental preservation on the general public. This move has paid the dividends as the numbers of incidents of poaching and felling of forest have come down. Encouraged by the response, the project has been further expanded on include the protection of Elephants. As part of the project, the trekking routes to the exotic locations in the forests have been laid and the Elephant training camps as a facilitation centre are done. Some places require half day of trekking while some others require a full day of trekking. There is a magnificent waterfall deep inside the forest. It can be assessed only by trekking. The forest area is home to a tribe by the name Malampandaram. They have been leading a more sophisticated life. This can be seen in their architectural and cultural skills. Their forefathers have built ancient temples deep inside the forest where it literally impossible to reach.