Lakshadweep admin developing high-end tourist facilities: Centre

Updated on Aug 12, 2022 04:41 AM IST

The administration of Lakshadweep is in the process of developing high-end tourist facilities on several islands of the Union territory, which had witnessed a widespread protest last year against a proposed regulation that sought to develop the region as a major tourist destination.

Lakshadweep had witnessed a widespread protest last year against a proposed regulation that sought to develop the region as a major tourist destination. (ANI)
Lakshadweep had witnessed a widespread protest last year against a proposed regulation that sought to develop the region as a major tourist destination. (ANI)
ByJayashree Nandi, New Delhi

The administration of Lakshadweep is in the process of developing high-end tourist facilities on several islands of the Union territory, which had witnessed a widespread protest last year against a proposed regulation that sought to develop the region as a major tourist destination, the Centre informed Parliament recently.

“Lakshadweep administration has informed that they are engaged in development of sustainable eco-tourism projects at Kadmat, Minicoy and Suheli islands under the aegis of NITI Aayog,” Union tourism and culture minister G Kishan Reddy said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on August 8.

“They are also developing high-end tourist resort facilities in Kavaratti, Agatti and Bangaram group of islands on priority basis and are intended to strengthen the water sports activities at various tourist islands to meet the requirements of tourists visiting these islands,” the minister added.

The minister was responding to a set of questions from two Janata Dal (United) MPs Kaushalendra Kumar and Rajiv Ranjan Singh, popularly known as Lalan Singh.

“To promote scuba diving and to position Lakshadweep as a prime location for scuba diving on the world map, they (UT administration) are developing scuba diving centres in Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Minicoy, Kadmat and Bangaram islands. The administration of Lakshadweep has taken steps for development of islands through public-private participation,” Reddy said.

On whether the government proposes to develop Cherium Island by giving it the status of tourism industry, the minister said: “Lakshadweep administration has informed that they have initiated process to develop eco-tourism project in various islands having tourism potential in which, Cheriyam Island is also included.”

Emphasising that the country’s coastline, including the region of Lakshadweep, has enormous potential to develop cruise tourism, both international and domestic, the Union minister added: “To harness this, a task force has been constituted with secretary, ministry of tourism as the chairman and secretary, ministry of shipping as the co-chairman.”

The Centre also informed that the UT administration has initiated the process for expansion of Agatti Airport to facilitate operation of bigger aircrafts. At present, only ATR-72 aircrafts can operate from Agatti. “In-principle approval for development of a new civil-military dual purpose airport in Minicoy has been given by the ministry of Defence,” the ministry said in its response.

In June last year, a group of 60 scientists and researchers requested then President Ram Nath Kovind to withdraw the draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR) 2021, underlining that the region’s unique geography, ecology, and long human history place natural limits on the kind of development the archipelago can support.

Some of the measures under LDAR 2021 proposed for the removal or relocation of islanders from their property for town planning. Researchers had said that the draft regulation designed to boost tourism, was in direct conflict with the rights of local people to land, livelihood and healthy ecosystems.

“The LDAR 2021 hasn’t been approved yet. But we do have a proper policy for development of tourism in the islands. Recently, we have given work orders to one of the biggest hospitality companies for development of Kadmat and Suheli islands,” said S Asker Ali, secretary, department of sports and youth Affairs, who is presently on a leave from his position and will be joining the Daman administration next month.

“We have a concept of carrying capacity for each island. We are not going to dump tourists there. That is why we are promoting high-end tourism here. Moreover, we have to take coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearance from the environment ministry, which will put a lot of conditions on these projects.”

The development of tourism will help generate funds for coral regeneration and create awareness on coral protection, Ali said. “There is no study so far to say we cannot do tourism here. We are also very concerned about the ecology here and the environment of Lakshadweep is the face of tourism for these islands.”

Nature Conservation Foundation’s Oceans and Coasts Programme reports in 2018 on two decades of monitoring the coral reefs of the Lakshadweep Archipelago showed the UT’s reefs have been damaged on a largescale due to climate change in the past 20 years.

“Lakshadweep’s principle fragility is climate change, which is currently threatening the resilience of its coral reefs, the structural integrity of the atoll itself, and therefore the habitability of the islands and her people. Our team has been tracking these changes over the last 25 years and documented a systematic decline of reef function over these decades as a result of climate change,” said Rohan Arthur, scientist, Oceans and Coasts with NCF. “Our more recent work has shown dramatic consequences on the accretion potential of these reefs — something that could have dire consequences for the future of these islands.”

Any development in Lakshadweep needs to work within the safe operating space determined by the declining reef and future climate change, the scientist further said. “Any development that threatens this fragile resilience will further add to the grave danger these islands are already in. Unbridled tourism places burdens on the Lakshadweep system in terms of fresh water consumption, energy, habitat destruction (to build tourism infrastructure, etc) that the islands cannot sustain…The current plans represent a failure of the imagination that could prove reckless for the future of the island and her citizens,” he added.

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