The Lakshadweep Research Collective, a collective of scientists and citizens, along with 60 other signatories from the scientific community has written to the President of India, demanding his intervention to withdraw the draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation of 2021 (LDAR) to restore and reinvigorate the Justice Raveendran Committee recommendations set up by the Supreme Court and to ensure that they are robustly implemented and monitored.
The other demands include establishment of a committee of scientists, policy makers and local representatives to re-evaluate the broader development plans and directions of which the LDAR is a part, in the context of Lakshadweep’s unique culture, ecological fragility and climate vulnerability.
The collective recently did a review of the implications of LDAR. The members said that in enabling takeover of local land, it was found that the draft regulation is not in consonance with existing laws, such as the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, the Biological Diversity Act 2002 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
It is also against the suggestions of the Justice Raveendran Committee recommendations. The LDAR does not address India’s commitments towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, marine protection goals under the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Ecotourism Guidelines 2019, they said.
“Given how linked land, lagoon and reef are in Lakshadweep, the development envisioned in the draft LDAR would be nothing short of disastrous,” said Rohan Arthur, senior scientist, Nature Conservation Foundation.
Out of decision-making
In its current form, the LDAR keeps local islanders out of decision-making processes. The LDAR embraces a questionable vision of development that is neither sustainable in design, nor likely to improve local well-being or safeguard the future habitability of the archipelago, the collective cautioned.
“In 23 years of my working in the marine landscape in India and abroad, nowhere before have I felt more at home, with food, people, weather, boats and the sea than in Lakshadweep. Nowhere before have I thought: “here is the place where we can actually try to recover coral reefs, seagrass beds and their communities, and yet operate a local commercial fishery.” Nowhere before have I felt, “it is not late yet, here is a biodiversity refugia, where people, culture and nature coexist,” said Dipani Sutaria, an ecologist studying marine mammals in the Lakshadweep with Divya Panicker and a team of islanders.
A bright spot
The LDAR must be withdrawn since it envisages tourism in uninhabited islands with scant regard for biodiversity, said opined Rucha Karkarey, Royal Society Newton International Research Fellow, Lancaster Environment Centre.
“Lakshadweep is home to ecological marvels that are unique to India and the world. It is a global ‘bright spot’ where high biodiversity persists alongside high population density and well-being,” she said.