According to Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation and Wildlife sources, The Nilgiris district comprising 70 per cent of forest cover has suffered the worst economic slowdown. The cottage and guest house facilities of the State Tourism Department took the worst hit with the annual revenue dipping by a whopping 70 per cent.
The tribes, mostly located near the Tiger reserves, have been trained in eco-tourism and the majority of them have become forest guides, trek operators, cab operators and cooks attached to a forest guest house or a range office handling the tiger reserves, but they have hit rock bottom in the past one-and-a-half years. “For the past few years, tourism has adversely affected the local community and tribal population. The entire Nilgiris district is dependent on tourism and agriculture in the 60: 40 ratio. With the
back-to-back lockdown extended on hill terrains, the economic status of local residents has taken a severe hit,” said social activist G Saravanan of Ooty.
Saravanan, also a radio jockey, is profiling the impact of COVID among the residents of Ooty, Gudalur, Coonor and Mudumalai. The situation is such that both macro and micro industries like tea estate, cottage industry, woollens and the ethnic Nilgiris thailam industry are adversely hit. “The district administration did a good job in curtailing the mortality rate and the spread of COVID by restricting tourists, but this, on the other hand, affected the local livelihood,” Saravanan said.
“Not only hilly terrains, tour operators and guides in adjacent Tiruvallur district covering the Tada and Varadapalayam falls have also been adversely hit. “The lockdown has drastically affected our livelihood and during this season, a lot of youngsters would frequent Tada and Varada hills for a trek, but now due to restrictions and e-pass regulations, footfall is down by 90 per cent,” said K Swami, a resident of Tiruvallur.