The sudden decision of the Tourism Department to construct tourist cottages abutting Coringa mangroves has evoked severe criticism from environmentalists.

As there is a steady increase in the number of visitors to Coringa, the second largest mangroves in India after the Sunderbans in West Bengal, the Tourism Department has chalked out plans to construct cottages near the sanctuary and has allocated Rs. 5 crore for the venture.

The stone-laying ceremony has been included in the itinerary of Union Minister of State for Tourism K. Chiranjeevi scheduled for Saturday.

The proposed site for the cottages is just six metres from the sanctuary. “The cottages will definitely cause environmental pollution, which will impact the wildlife in the sanctuary,” says T. Rajyalakshmi, president of the Society for the Promotion of Coastal Areas Management (SPICAM). Any change in the composition of the water , that has been perfect till date, will lead to extinction of species, she says. “The officials argue that facilities for tourists are there at the Sunderbans. The same is not possible in Coringa whose extent is comparatively is very less,” points out Dr. Rajyalakshmi, also the former Director of the Central Institute for Brackish Water Aquaculture Institute.

Echoing her views, R. Rama Subramanian, a senior scientist from the M.S. Swaminathan Foundation, says the wildlife in the mangroves is very precious and there should not be any changes in the environment for the survival of certain species. “Basically, Coringa is not a tourist attraction, but a wildlife sanctuary,” Dr. Rama Subramanian observes.

“If the officials are really keen on tourism development, they can focus on developing the Vakalapudi beach with all amenities and make arrangements for circuit tourism,” says Dr. Rajyalakshmi.