Kumbalanghi

Kumbalanghi is a suburb of the city of Kochi, in the state of Kerala, India, located in the district of Ernakulam. The place was selected as a model tourism village by the Government of India.

In 2003 Kerala government gave more preference to village tourism and selected some villages are model villages. The model village is a veritable treat to its visitors with the famous Chinese fishing nets and many other sights to savour.

Kumbalangi, 15 km. from South Railway Station, and 45 km.from the Kochi International Airport. It is a coastal hamlet that provides a glimpse of the simple and prosperous livelihood of the villagers, and also unravels the age-old, magnificent culture and heritage of the place.

"Kumbalangi Integrated Tourism Village project is a unique initiative to transform the tiny island as a model fishing village and tourism spot.

Kumbalangi has a calm and quiet landscape. It is a virgin landscape unspoiled by excessive presence of tourism. It’s a place to relax and rejuvenate with the beauty of nature and richness of exotic cuisines.
Kumbalanghi is surrounded by backwaters. A ring of Chinese fishing nets literally encircle the island –village bearing witness to the rich aquatic life. An array of mangroves separate land from water providing a breeding ground for prawns, crabs, oysters and small fishes. The village which is 16 km2 .in area is home to fishermen, farmers, labourers, toddy tappers and coir spinners all alike.

Kumbalangy is an island-village on the out skirts of Cochin city of Kerala State in South India . As Kumbaangi is close to the heart of Cochin city reaching there would pose no problems whatso ever. Innumerabl number of buses both private and KSRTC ply towards Kumbalangi.

Kumbalangy is surrounded by backwaters. A ring of Chinese fishing nets literally encircle the island –village bearing witness to therich aquatic life. An array of mangroves separate land from water providing a breeding ground for prawns, crabs, oysters and small fishes. The village which is 16 Sq.Km .in area is home to fishermen, farmers, labourers, toddy tappers and coir spinners all alike.

"The Kumbalangi project was set in motion in 2003 to help the local people, the economy and the locality through tourism," says M C Sivadathan, President of the Kumbalangi panchayat (village council). "And in order to achieve this, we have done away with many concepts typical of tourism elsewhere. Our idea is to create job opportunities for the villagers, while also ensuring that tourists have a good time seeing and experiencing real village life, he explains. The panchayat - with financial assistance from the state government - is implementing the project. Nearly 30,000 people live in this seven square km village. The main occupation in Kumbalangi is fishing, and there are over 100 Chinese nets in the backwaters that face the village. The region - once rich in fish and mangroves - was losing its ecological capital. Currently, there are about 10 houses that offer rooms to visitors. This facility is generally within a residence, where two or more rooms with attached baths are set aside for guests. The per day charge is about Rs 900, inclusive of breakfast. Lunch and dinner are also provided at an extra charge. The tourists sit with the host family and eat the same food they eat. They can walk through the village, watch fisher folk at work, fish themselves, go canoeing and visit the farms, among other things. They can also contact the panchayat if they require assistance.

Many people also wondered whether Kerala food would be palatable to foreign taste buds. The result, though, has been extremely satisfactory. "Other than making the food less spicy, we do not deviate from traditional cuisine," says Lilly Lawrence, who supervises cooking in the Retreat. "There is a huge demand for fish and seafood, such as prawn and shrimp. Everything is available locally," she says. Lawrence recalls, "Initially, we were worried about whether guests would like the village and its rustic ambience. But we realized that this is a novel experience for them. We have had tourists who stayed with us for weeks, reading books, fishing or simply watching the backwaters." Tourists also find that there is no huge communication gap, because at least one member in a family, if not all, can converse in English.

Another occupation that's seen quite a revival is that of boatmen. The village is well connected by road to the mainland, and the local community did not patronize them very much. However, tourists are keen on cruises. Fisher folk and boatmen also demonstrate various fishing techniques for the tourists.

Under the Kumbalangi project, Kalagraamam, an artists' village, is also being set up. The initial plans were to erect a cottage in the middle of the backwaters. Later, the panchayat members, tourism secretary and the tourism minister were all agreed that this would disturb the backwaters ecology. Kalagraamam, therefore, will now stand on four acres of land inside Kumbalangi. It will showcase the traditional fishing equipment and handicrafts of the region. Another goal the project has is to bring the village back to its ecologically glorious days - about 25 years ago. Towards this, pokkali farming, a crop pattern that alternates between rice and fish (each for six months a year), is being brought back in full form. Also, mangroves that were once in abundance in the region are being planted once again. So far, about 50,000 mangrove saplings have been planted in the area. "We used to have plenty of fish here because of the mangroves. The planting of mangroves will lead to a better environment for the fish to live in. (Mangroves grow in marshy areas, where fish also find comfort.)," says Sivadathan.

The Kumbalangi panchayat is well aware that being a tourist destination also brings with it greater responsibilities. "Tourists will not come unless there are proper roads and lights. So, the roads and canals have been strengthened, CFC lamps have been installed, and 600 biogas plants have been set up for waste management. Kumbalangi is also the first panchayat in the state to set up such a waste management system. A park has also been constructed for visitors to relax in. The most remarkable thing about this project is that what we do for the tourists also directly benefits the local population," Sivadathan says.

Information based on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumbalanghi