The IPCC, in its latest report, has cautioned India to be watchful of the adverse impacts on the coastal ecosystem due to the warming of the ocean which could result in frequent and severe high tidal waves, flooding of low lying areas along the over 7,000 km coastline. This would also lead to extreme monsoon rains not only in India but also in the whole of South Asia, says the report.
At a virtual event organised by a Bangalore-based NGO, EQUATIONS (Equitable Tourism Options) to discuss the tourism development in Lakshadweep, environmental scientists, researchers, legal luminaries, tourism entrepreneurs, local people all joined together to raise their voice against the decision of the Lakshadweep Administration to go ahead with the luxury resort development plans in three islands ignoring the environmental, social and ecological impacts of the development.
Participating in the discussion, a noted environmentalist has opined that the government has the duty to educate and sensitize the local islanders about the Environmental impact of every small and big development project that is happening in the islands as their life is so closely associated with it. “Lakshadweep should be treated as a Small Island nation,” said the environmentalist, adding, “Lakshadweep has a small population of just over 66,000 people and therefore there should be propeller discussion and deliberations at all levels about the environmental impact.”
The proposed developments happening at the behest of the NITI Aayog is a blatant violation of the orders of the Supreme Court as well as the recommendations of the Expert Committee report headed by Justice RV Ravindran, said a legal expert, adding that the Expert Committee report was prepared after elaborate discussions involving the government departments of environment, stakeholders of the tourism industry and local people, and should have been respected by the people in the policy making echelons before embarking on mega development projects disregarding the carrying capacity of the place.
The Expert Committee has recommended that it is highly essential to protect the corals, seagrass and the coastal ecosystem from activities like waste disposal, port development, dredging for navigation and tourism related activities. It has warned against any tourism related development without respecting the carrying capacity of the destination, said a panelist.
Although it is a group of islands, both inhabited and uninhabited, the islands are interdependent and people’s life and livelihood are interlinked with the entire ecosystem, said a researcher based in the island. There has been visible erosion in the coral ecosystem which protects the lagoons, the panelist said. Construction of water villas and other activities will further damage the corals which will have serious consequences on the islanders life and livelihood.
The development of water villas will also block the access to lagoons which the fisherfolk in the islands depend on for so many things, said another expert researcher. Even the uninhabited islands are used by local people for drying fish, repair and maintenance of their boats. Setting up high-end resorts in those islands can hamper their access, said another panelist.
The overall sentiment at the discussion was that the resort development being pushed from the top is not for the well-being of the islanders, but to serve the interests of non-islanders.