From less than a thousand during the 1980’s, the number of visitors has risen to around 4.5 lakh during the Neelakurinji flowering in 2006 and the average number of visitors during the last 3 years has been around 4 lakhs annually. In anticipation of the boom of visitors during 2006 in connection with the Neelakurinji flowering, the present visitor management system was introduced with the help of eco-development committees of local dependent population. In addition to the existing 5 EDCs, 2 professional EDCs of local dependent drivers and vendors were formed. All the private vehicles were stopped at 5th mile, 4 km away from the tourism zone of the park and a departmental system for transportation of visitor was introduced with the help of eco-development committees. The members of Drivers EDC are engaged for plying the six buses owned by the EDCs used for the transportation of visitors to the park. The members of Vendors EDC are engaged for managing the vending outlets in the tourism zone and 5th mile, the entrance to the National Park. Additional members of tribal EDCs were trained in visitor management and used for the visitor management in the tourism zone.
Visitors taken to the tourism zone in the departmental system are allowed to walk 1 km along a black topped road in the tourism zone where they may get an opportunity for a close look of Nilgiri Tahr which is very much habituated to human presence. The check post operating at Rajamala regulates the entry and exit of vehicles to and from the tourism zone. An Interpretation Centre “Story of the Park” is provided inside the National Park at Rajamala where a few exhibits are displayed to educate and explain the importance of the protected areas and its biodiversity. The enquiry counter at 5th Mile provides information on the protected areas and ecotourism programmes under Wildlife Division, Munnar in general and on Eravikulam National Park in particular.
The members of drivers EDC who operates the vehicles and the watchers engaged in the tourism zone helps in the interpretation and guidance to the visitors. For the visitors amenity, facilities like cafeteria, amenity centre, eco-shop, toilets etc are maintained at 5th mile, the entrance to the park and in the tourism zone. The activities of the EDC’s are managed by Anamudi Forest Development Agency, under Wildlife Division, Munnar. The revenue collected from the visitors as entry fee goes to the Government and rest of the collections including the bus charges, collection from the outlets and amenity centers operated by the EDC’s goes to the Anamudi Forest Development Agency through the individual EDC’s. The expenditure needed for the maintenance of EDC activities are provided to the individuals EDC from Anamudi Forest Development Agency by the Member Secretary and Chief Executive Officer. The details are attached as table 15, 16, 17 and 18. There is an information gap that exists for the visitors to the National Park. A proper interpretation package is to be framed and implemented to bridge the gap.
The Lakkom water falls at Lakkom is managed by the members of Lakkomkudy EDC. The visitors are allowed to enjoy the beautiful waterfall originating from the National Park. Amenities like toilets, locker room, tea and snacks etc are also provided for the visitors. An eco-shop operated by the EDC sells the various products including the tribal produces to the visitors to generate income to the EDC. The number of visitors to Lakkom falls is on the rise. The visitor management and the waste management have been an issue here, especially during the peak months. A visitor management strategy needs to be developed for the area for future management.
The ‘Gouldsbury’ trail, a two day trekking and camping programme to Parappayarkudy, short trekking programmes at Rajamala, short trekking and camping programme at Lakkom and one day conducted tour programmes by the EDC’s are on the anvil. The whole financial transactions the EDC are managed by the apex body of the EDC’s, the Anamudi Forest Development Agency.