Special Correspondent

Kerala Swathantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation flays ‘Ente Theeram’ project

Says majority of the projects are at places hardly affected by the tsunami

Says artificial reef at Kovalam will affect the livelihood of 500 people

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala Swathantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (KSMTF) has flayed the State government for utilising funds from the Tsunami Rehabilitation Programme to promote tourism development.

Referring to Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s statement made during the inauguration of the ‘Ente Theeram’ project at Veli here on Monday, KSMTF president T. Peter said the government was guilty of diverting funds meant for the upliftment of coastal communities.

Rationale questioned

“How can the construction of walkways and improvement of tourism infrastructure be termed as coastal protection? How will it benefit the coastal communities affected by tsunami? This is just old wine in new bottle.

The Minister had said earlier that tsunami funds would be used for the beautification of beaches as part of a package of 22 coastal projects. After protests from the coastal communities, now they are doing the same thing in the name of coastal protection,” he said.

“The majority of the projects are in locations that were hardly affected by the tsunami. According to the guidelines issued by the Central Planning Commission, TRP funds can be used only for rehabilitation of damaged sites.

“The Tourism department should come out with the extent of damage caused by the tsunami in the 20 selected project sites. The details of the projects need to be brought before the public and debated,” Mr. Peter said.

He reiterated the stand that the proposed construction of a 500-metre long artificial reef at Kovalam for water skiing, surfing and swimming would affect the livelihood of the fishing community in the area.

“Community based shore–seine fishing in the area will be curtailed and at least 500 people will lose their livelihood options. The fish breeding ground will be used for ‘sport fishing’ by tourists and will be of little use to the local fish workers. They are still planning to go ahead with the project.”

Study sought

Mr. Peter called for a detailed study to assess the impact of the artificial reef on the neighbouring villages such as Vizhinjam and Poonthura.

Diverting Rs.84.11 crore earmarked for rehabilitation of tsunami-affected people will detract from the government’s bid to promote Kerala as a Responsible Tourism destination, he added.