Special Correspondent

Some fish workers stand to lose land due to projects

NGOs allege violation of Planning Commission norms

Thiruvananthapuram: A group of NGOs have criticised the government for diverting funds earmarked for tsunami rehabilitation to tourism sector in the State.

Addressing presspersons here, T. Peter, State president of the Kerala Swathantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation, A.R. Sajeer representing Kerala Tourism Watch and Sumesh Mangalassery of Kabani Tour said the 20 tourism projects taken up in Kerala with Central funds under the Tsunami Rehabilitation Project (TRP) violated the guidelines issued by the Planning Commission. They said none of the projects were being implemented in tsunami-affected areas.

They said the projects would not benefit local people, particularly the fishing communities who were displaced by the tsunami. They also warned that a section of the fishermen community would even their land and livelihood. “While the projects are being implemented in the name of coastal protection, they are actually for the development of tourism infrastructure and beautification of beaches,” Mr. Peter said.

“The activities proposed include construction of walkways and amphitheatres and landscaping. The construction of an artificial reef at Kovalam to provide water sports facilities threatens the livelihood of over 500 fishermen. The waves deflected by the reef may cause increased erosion and damage in the neighbouring areas.”

Mr. Sajeer said the failure to take stakeholders into confidence had led to doubts about the intention. “The Department of Tourism contends that the projects would give jobs to local people through beach tourism. However, tsunami survivors have not been consulted on the role that tourism would play in rebuilding their lives.”

The NGOs alleged that the Tourism Department had violated Planning Commission stipulations that the funds should be used only for repairing damaged roads, beach resorts and tourist complexes. They also said the project bypassed vulnerable coasts at Alappad and Arattupuzha.