In 2012 we referred to the work of Dr Ritu Dewan and Michelle Chawla, who valued the seclusion and charm of the Lakshadweep islands, describing 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’.
The Lakshadweep archipelago, off the Indian coast of Kerala, is a group of 10 inhabited islands, 17 uninhabited coral islands, attached islets, 4 newly formed islets and 5 submerged reefs. 93% of he inhabitants are Muslims, most belonging to scheduled tribes – a designation given to communities with ‘primitive traits, distinctive culture, geographical isolation and shyness in contact with the community at large’.
There is little economic inequality in Lakshadweep, the poverty index is low and the islands are virtually crime-free.
Only five islands are visited by tourists and foreign nationals are not permitted to visit four of the islands. Foreign tourists are only allowed to come to Bangaram, an uninhabited island, where consumption of alcohol is permitted. They fly from Kochi to Agatti, the nearest island to Bangaram which has an airport.
In 1967, the Administrator passed the Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands (Restriction on Entry and Residence) Rules; every person who is not a native of these islands has to obtain a permit before entering these islands.
Since the water supply and general ‘carrying capacity’ of these tiny islands has to be kept in mind, any activities related with tourism has to be carried out with great care. The necessity of preventing environmental imbalance is stressed and sea based tourism is undertaken to ensure that land resources are not over taxed.
Day tourists are brought by ship and board them from the islands before nightfall. Numbers booked are based on the carrying capacity of the islands and shortage of essential items including drinking water. Visitors are warned that picking up coral is illegal.
The effects of the tsunami of December 2004 were felt all along the coast of Kerala. But the impact was not uniform throughout, certain areas were exposed and adjacent areas were left unscathed. The waves, after a free run until reaching the southern tip of Sri Lanka, got diffracted and turned towards the north to enter the Lakshadweep Sea but the coral reefs of were undamaged.
Latest news found: in January, the shipping minister advocated the building of inland waterways for cheap and clean transport as the islanders depend on shipping services for most of their needs. He said that the government would give that priority to this and plans to manufacture light-weight craft, hovercraft and catamarans.
Many would like to see quiet, clean waterway passenger and freight transport developed in their own regions. Here is a link to news of an admirable pilot project which has converted a diesel barge to hydrogen fuel which emits only water vapour. The cylinders replace the ballast which is needed on such vessels. The story of the Ross Barlow (above) is told on a sister site: https://antidotecounteragent.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/the-ross-barlow-a-zero-emission-hydrogen-hybrid-canal-boat/