Varkala, a coastal town, situated at a distance of about 50 km north of Thiruvananthapuram and 37 km south of Kollam city is one of the important religious and tourist destinations in Kerala. It is visited by lakhs of foreign and domestic tourists / pilgrims regularly as well as during the special occasions both from India and abroad. In view of Varkala’s enormous tourist potential, the Government of Kerala has initiated the process of preparing the Master Plan‐2041 for integrated development of this area through a number of infrastructure development projects for meeting the requirement of making Varkala a tourists’ paradise, both for the domestic and foreign tourists. To achieve this objective, Government of Kerala through its arm; Vision Varkala Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd., has engaged RITES Ltd., a Government of India Enterprise, for preparing the Master Plan‐2041.
PROJECT STUDY AREA
The area of Varkala Municipality and seven Panchayats namely; Pallickal, Madavoor, Navaikulam, Elakamon, Chemmaruthy, Vettoor and Edava constitute the project area. As per Government records, it has an area of about 142.78 sq.km., whereas, after Geo‐referencing the satellite images for preparing digital base map in GIS environs, the total area measures 130.43 sq.km. For all calculations leading to formulation of Master Plan‐2041, the computed area of 130.43 sq km. has been adopted.The project area is well connected by roads, railways and the airways. The National Highway NH‐47 connecting Kollam to Kanyakumari passes through it. Rail connectivity is provided by Southern Railways in this region. The international airport of Thiruvananthapuram is only 55 km which is linked by NH‐47.
The total population of the project area in 2011 was around 2.22 lakh persons. The average population density is around 17.1 pph which is quite low as compared to the district density (49 pph) and the State average of 65.4 pph (Census 2011).
TOURISM SCENARIO IN KERALA
The foreign tourist inflow to Kerala has shown increase from around 3.4 lakh (2004) to 6.6 lakh (2010) tourists. The foreign tourist’s inflow from United Kingdom was highest at 23.7%, followed by USA (10.79%) and France (9.79%) during the year 2010. Whereas during the same period the foreign tourist inflow to Thiruvananthapuram district increased from around 1 lakh (2004) to 2 lakh (2010). The share of Thiruvananthapuram district (31%) in the total foreign tourist inflow to Kerala during 2010 was just next to Ernakulam district (42%). During the 2004‐10, the domestic tourist inflow to Kerala has shown increase from around 6 lakh (2004) to 8.6 lakh (2010) tourists. The domestic tourist’s inflow from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh was observed significant as compared to other parts of the country.
TOURISM SCENARIO IN VARKALA
The share of Varkala in the foreign tourist arrivals during the year 2010 was almost 22% of Thiruvananthapuram District (45,545 tourists); next to Kovalam at 53% (108,639 tourists). The winter months from November to March are the preferred months of the foreign tourists whereas, the lean season is from April to July when the foreign tourist inflow is lowest.
The share of Varkala in the domestic tourists during the year 2010 was almost 13.7% of the district (160,238 tourists) which was third most after the Thiruvananthapuram at 59.5% (696,555 tourists) and Kovalam at 22.4% (262,456 tourists). The peak season of domestic tourists is during months of April‐May and November‐December. The lean season is from January to March for the domestic tourist inflow.
POPULATION PROJECTIONS FOR THE PROJECT AREA
The population of the project area comprising Varkala and other constituent Panchayats reached 222,154 in 2011 from 177,443 in 1981. During the decade 1981‐91 the growth rate was 12.59% which decreased to 9.01% during 1991‐2001 and further decreased to 2.01% during the decade 2001‐11 suggesting a steady out migration from Varkala.
To carry out the population projection for the project area three different scenarios were considered namely (i) Existing decadal growth rate, (ii) Moderate decadal growth rate, and (iii) Optimistic decadal growth rate. Envisioning the type and the scale of investments that are likely to come in the project area, Scenario‐3 which is Optimistic DGR of 31% has been considered for future population projections. The total population under this scenario would be around 5 lakh persons by 2041.
TOURIST INFLOW PROJECTION AND DEMAND ASSESSMENT
Considering the existing situation and the growing trends of tourist inflow, it was estimated that the total tourists visiting Varkala by the year 2021 would be around 4.5 lakhs (2.5%); by year 2031, would be around 8.4 lakhs (3%) and by 2041, would be around 14.8 lakhs (3.5%). During the same period the total tourists visiting Kerala would be around 164 lakhs by year 2021, around 250 lakhs by 2031 and around 380 lakhs by year 2041.
The accommodation unit requirements in Varkala by the year 2041 have been calculated considering the inflow of tourists during weekdays and weekends, both during peak and lean seasons, which comes to around 8,000 rooms by 2041. Apart from these, there will be day time tourists and pilgrims that shall be visiting the place during festivals or religious occasions.
Assuming the average employee‐to‐room ratio of 1.6 for all categories of hotels and home stays in Varkala, the total employment in Varkala would be around 25,600+ jobs in the next 30 years i.e. by year 2041 in the tourism industry.
EXISTING LAND USE IN THE PROJECT AREA
The existing land use study shows that nearly 7.06 sq.km (5.4%) of the total project area is under Residential (Built) category, while about 0.43 sq.km (0.3%) and 0.11 sq.km (0.1%) is under Commercial (Built) category and Industrial (Built) category, respectively. The combined area covered under land use categories namely Vacant Open Area and Vacant Vegetal Area measures about 63.85 sq.km (49%), while under Plantation and Agriculture it is about 38.41 sq. km. (29.4%).
EMERGING CONCERNS AND CHALLENGES
The major concerns identified were:
- Environmental Issues ‐Violation of Coastal Regulation Zone, pollution of water bodies and beaches, cliff erosion, destruction of the natural environment (fauna and flora), and reduction in tree cover due to uncontrolled development, overexploitation of coastal natural resources and unchecked construction activities
- Economic Issues ‐Lower level of local participation in tourism and related activities in terms of employment, entrepreneurship and informal activities, marginal jobs/low wages from tourism sector for local people, and lower economic benefits to local people in spite of increasing tourist inflow to the region
- Socio‐Cultural Issues ‐Exclusion of local community from beaches/tourism spots, commoditization of culture and art forms, new building styles/westernization of styles among people, and low level of interest/involvement in tourism
- Traffic and Transportation Issues – Limited road network capacity with narrower roads, inadequate parking facilities, absence of footpath and proper signage’s along the roads, a number of railway level crossings etc.
VISION AND MISSION OF THE MASTER PLAN
The main vision of the Master Plan is: “Developing Varkala as the one of the most preferred and eco‐friendly tourist destinations and integrating it with needs of local community, improving quality of life and providing more employment opportunities with least interference in the natural environment”.
The ultimate mission is: “Attracting investments in a paradigm of regulated growth and development, at the designated nodes within the project area, by involving all the stakeholders‐both public and the private sectors for vision realization”
ZONATION OF THE PROJECT AREA
Since this is the first planning effort of developing the project area comprising Municipal and Panchayat areas, the development agency requires flexibility of attracting the investments at places with a few restrictions specified in the Development Control Regulations. It is the foremost requirement of the private investor, because the first choice of investor is to develop the area where land is accessible, cheaper and has the marketing potentials. Such flexibilities are not available in the strict land use zones.
Hence, the entire project area has been dived into two zones described as under;
i. Urbanization Area‐1 (UA‐1), is the area that will have comparatively high intensity of development i.e. higher FSI and developmental permission charges and the development permissions linked with the hierarchy of roads as specified in the Development Control Regulations,
ii. Urbanization Area‐2 (UA‐2), is the area that will have lower intensity of development
i.e. lower FSI and developmental charges than the UA‐1.
Since the Zonation is based on the existing potentials to attract the investment, equally important is attaining the balanced growth and development of the project area. For this purpose, the project area within the two zones, has been designated for polycentric development as nodes of investments listed as under:
- Commercial hubs in Varkala, Chemmaruthy, Edava and Navaikulam,
- Cultural Hub between Varkala, Chemmaruthy and Edava,
- Health and Education hub in Navaikulam,
- Technology Parks (IT and Other Technologies) in Madavoor, Pallickal and Navaikulam,
- Sports and Leisure/recreational Hub in Varkala, Edava and Elakamon,
- Agro based Industry in Vettoor,
- Transportation Hub in Navaikulam
The broad principles on which the Master Plan, 2041 has been formulated are as follows:
- Multiple Nuclei Concept
- Decentralized Development
- Low‐Rise and Low‐Density Developments
- Promotion of Public‐Private Partnerships
- Local People’s Participation
- Promotion of Home Stay
PROPOSED LAND USE
The Urbanization Area measuring 71.06 sq.km (54.5%) has been categorised into two zones namely Urbanization Area‐1 having an area of 24.51 sq.km (18.8%) and Urbanization Area‐2 having an area of 46.6 sq.km (35.7%). Considering the importance of ecosystem, around 27.7 km (21.3%) area has been identified as conservation area. The tourism and recreation area has been kept around 5.7 sq. km (4.4%) and the area under agriculture is around 15.4 sq. km (11.8%) of the total project area (refer proposed land use Map).
TOURISM CIRCUIT AND IDENTIFIED PROJECTS FOR DEVELOPMENT
The objective of having a tourist circuit is to increase the total number of visit to all destinations on the circuit on one hand and to provide tourist the attraction of all the destinations located on the circuit. It is in this reference it is suggested to cover various tourist destinations in the project area including Kappil Lake – Shivagiri Mutt – Janardhan Swami temple ‐Varkala Cliff – Golden Island – Anjengo Fort and other important tourist places in and around Varkala as a part of the tourist circuit.
The important tourist sites that have been identified for development / upgradation / renovation so as to attract more tourists by creating better infrastructure facilities have been suggested as under:
- Janardhan Swamy Temple Development
- Papanasam Beach Development
- North Cliff Area Development
- Renovation of Varkala Tunnel
- Development around Kappil Lake
Apart from these projects, the other projects mentioned in Vision Varkala 2020 have also been suggested to be developed after carrying out appropriate feasibilities of each of these projects.
A large number of foreign and domestic tourists come to Thiruvananthapuram and Kovalam. Therefore it is also important to have tourism circuit of Kovalam – Thiruvananthapuram – Varkala in order to bring more tourists to Varkala. This necessitates the need of improving road connectivity to Thiruvananthapuram and Kovalam by widening NH‐47 to 4‐lanes immediately and to 6 lanes in future.
With the preparation of the Master Plan 2041, it is essential to make institutional arrangements for the implementation of the Master Plan. In view of the limitations of the Vision Varkala Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd relating to the granting of various development permissions under the laws applicable to the project area and the limited trained human resource, the following are the proposals for effective and speedy clearances of the permissions:‐
- The powers exercised under the Kerala Municipality Building Rules, 1999 by the municipal officer for granting development permissions for areas measuring 200 square metres and above should be made exercisable by the officer of the ViVIDC Ltd.
- The powers exercised under the Kerala Panchayat Buildings Rules, 2011 for regulating the development and granting development permissions in the Panchayat areas by the officers of the Administrative Department be exercisable by the officers of the ViVIDC Ltd.
- It would be appropriate to depute officers from various departments and placed under the control of ViVIDC Ltd and shall keep drawing their salaries from the parent Department till such time the ViVIDC Ltd becomes self‐sustainable. Such officers must have such delegation of powers exercised by them in their parent department relating to development permission, designing of infrastructure, preparing detailed project reports and according approvals thereof.
- The above arrangement is to provide one‐stop‐shop kind of service to enable quick processing of proposals and approval thereof under one roof.
- There must be a capacity building training program of the staff in ViVIDC Ltd for explaining and understanding the provisions of Master Plan, framing of various development proposals, their processing for according approvals, there implications and implementation.
PUBLIC‐PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP (PPP)
As stated in the institutional arrangement, Vision Varkala Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (ViVIDC) will be constraint by limited human resource. It will also have resource constraint and technological limitations. Therefore, to keep pace with the required infrastructure and to clear the backlog, the option available is adopting PPP model. Despite its pros and cons, this joint effort of government agency and of private sector partnership, the benefit of private sector funds and expertise can be harnessed.
The repercussion of such an arrangement is reflected in the cost of using the service to be borne exclusively by the users of the service. In such a paradigm, the responsibility of the public sector is to:
i. Providing land to the partner for infrastructure development free from all encumbrances;
ii. Where only right‐of‐way is involved on the ground, above the ground, or below the ground, the responsibility is of public sector to enable or facilitate all approvals or clearances from various government agencies/Departments,
iii. Drafting of an agreement that meets the requirement of the partners and ultimately builds the financial health of the public sector agency and builds the capacity of the agency to take future projects on its own strength,
The project where private sector can be involved, inter‐alia, could be the following;
i. Infrastructure for promotion of tourism as identified in the Varkala Master Plan 2041 such as;
a. Ropeways, viewing towers and pedestrian bridges,
b. Water Sports, boating, running of ferries,
c. Building/ establishing Tourism Circuit
ii. Developing Road network
a. New roads after acquisition of land through a carefully drafted concessionaire agreement,
b. Existing road widening, strengthening and maintenance thereof
iii. Developing energy source and linking with the state supply network,
iv. Sewage treatment and solid waste management including compost plant,
v. Cultural complex
vi. Developing a mechanism of partnerships with the land owners for eliminating the land