Eversince videos of white fluffy clouds kissing the peaks of the hills were uploaded on various social media and internet sites, some time in June last year, the once serene and tranquil tribal village of Vanjangi in Paderu in the Agency area of Visakhapatnam district, has become a tourist hotspot.
Not only the locals from the city, but even those who come from outstation, are seen making a beeline for this spot.
Located about seven kilometres from Paderu town, people are equating the spot with the Tiger Hills of Darjeeling, as people are rushing the spot located about 3,400 feet above the sea level, just to see the sun emerge from behind the distant mountains of the Eastern Ghats and the floating clouds.
But the tourist spot is fast turning into an eyesore and the innocent tribals, who form the local populace, blame on the irresponsible tourists, who are littering the place with all sorts of garbage ranging from plastic bags to liquor bottles.
Reacting to complaints from the locals, the Forest Department is stepping in and plans are afoot to convert the spot into a community-based ecotourism venture.
It is learnt that the department is also taking steps to safeguard the reserve forest area.
To begin with, the Forest Department has already enforced a time schedule for entry and exit and have banned night camping in the demarcated reserve forest area. The department has initiated an action plan to fight pollution in the forest area by appointing workers to clean the view point.
“It is a reserve forest area. Tourists who are trekking on the hills till late in the nights are setting up campfires, which may possibly lead to forest fires. Threat exists even for public from the wild animals. So to protect public as well as the wildlife, we are closing the view point from 7 p.m. and would only allow people to trek on the hill after 3 a.m.,” said District Forest Officer, Paderu, K Vinod Kumar.
To check the entry and exit, the Forest Department has also set up a check point right before the starting of the reserve forest at Vanjangi. The officials have also started to collect an entry fee of ₹30 per adult and ₹15 per child, apart from ₹50 as parking fee for a four-wheeler and ₹20 for two-wheelers.
The department has hired 20 local tribal youth from the surrounding villages, for clearing the debris on the hills from time to time to ensure that the environment is clean. Salaries for the 20 youth will be given from the charges being collected at the entry point.
The Forest Department officials has also written to the higher-ups seeking about ₹60 lakh to set up drinking water facility, cafeteria and washrooms for the tourists, which have been lacking. The proposals also include arranging of sitting benches, dustbins and cautionary boards asking tourists not to litter.
“If the approvals are accepted, we may start the work soon and make these basic amenities available for the tourists from the next winter,” Mr. Vinay Kumar said, adding that they are also seeking help from the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) to develop the place.“With vast scope for development, we are also mulling to set up cottages, develop flower gardens and also introduce 4 km- special jungle trekking programmes in future,” he added.