Dr Ritu Dewan, who also, with Michelle Chawla, wrote a treatise on the environmentally fragile area of Dahanu, valued the seclusion and charm of the Lakshadweep islands. She wrote about the social structure in this matrilineal Muslim society and its coral reefs and described the philosophy of responsible and sustainable tourism which had ‘retained its magic’.
Its primary concern is to maintain the ‘eco-balance’ and to preserve the state of ‘relative indigenous purity’. To that end certain steps were taken:
Entry is restricted to only four islands and only domestic visitors are allowed, because “Foreigners bring with them drinking which is prohibited on all islands. Also gambling, drugs, prostitution and even AIDS, which we want to avoid”.
The level of tourism is based on the level of the water-table and is mainly restricted to day visits. A liner anchored near the island provides accommodation.
A concession: Bangaram, an uninhabited island (below) was leased to a company which has started a casino and provides 5* facilities for ‘high-end’ foreign visitors.
Local people call this ‘limited tourism’ and the protesting locals of the Andaman Islands might find it a model which they could adapt.
Final question: Have the Andaman islanders been able to maintain this regime? We hope so.
Source article: Times of India, 11.1.97