Munnar : When floods ravaged Kerala, nature lovers across the world prayed to save the kurinji flowers in the Kannan Devan hills, which bloom once in 12 years. The chances were slim as Munnar and the surrounding areas were flooded in the incessant rains for 14 days with landslides damaging the ecologically fragile district of Idukki on the Western Ghats. But hope rekindled after the sun shone on Munnar valley and the breathtaking kurinji flowers started to bloom.
According to R Lakshmi, wildlife warden, Eravikulam National Park, the damage from the floods is minimal and neelakurinji have started to bloom in several areas.
"Now in many parts of Kannan Devan hills, Neelakurinji plants have started to bloom after the rain has abated and the sun has come out. If the favourable weather continues, the valley will be in full bloom within ten days. The plants have started blooming in many parts of Rajamalai, Kanthalloor and Eravikulam national parks," .
Neelakurinji, scientifically known as Strobilanthus Kunthianus, is a shrub that grows in the forests of Western Ghats and when it flowers it attracts over two million people to Munnar, a 19th century township located around 1,600 metres above sea level. Kurinjis are normally found at an altitude of 1,300 to 2,400 metres and the species bloom with an unusual flowering cycle of 12 years.
The inflow of tourists is also slowly picking up at Munnar hills, after the ban was lifted on September 1. The government had imposed a travel ban to hill stations in Idukki, Wayanad and Palakkad districts after massive landslides and heavy rains pounded the area.
The state tourism industry recorded a loss of around Rs 800 crore in the mega floods. Munnar lost road connectivity and remained isolated during the deluge.
The last mega kurinji bloom was recorded in 2006; and this year, the tourism department is expecting a big turnout of tourists from August to October.
"We are taking all the steps to put back Munnar on the tourism map. Road connectivity will be re-established within two weeks. Now, repairing and reconstruction of bridges are going on. Public Works Department has taken up road repairs on a priority basis," .
Around 1,000 km of roads including a 145-km long national highway were damaged and the bridge linking Munnar to Marayur was washed away in the floods. Around 2,000 cancellations were reported by hoteliers in Munnar alone.
"Floods have totally ruined Munnar. I was born here and now our fifth generation is here. It's for the first time we have been hit so badly," 63-year-old Prasad Ambattu, whose house was damaged in a landslide, told India Today.
Just like Prasad, thousands lost their livelihood due to the deluge.
According to him, after the Periyavarai bridge is repaired, tourist inflow to Munnar will increase.
"We hope that within 15 days, the situation will improve in Munnar," he said.
Around 2,000 resorts and homestays operate in the Munnar region, which is one of the most sought-after destination in Kerala.