Sri. V.S. Achuthanandan
Honourable Chief Minister of Kerala
Sub: Appeal against the approval of Special Tourism Zones within the state.
We express our serious concern regarding the proposal for the new Special Tourism Zones on the lines of Special Economic Zones within the state. We are writing this letter to you in the context of Honourable Kerala Tourism Minister's statement on Special Tourism Zone during the inauguration of the recent workshop on Responsible Tourism organised by Kerala Tourism. Minister announced that the creation of STZs would be considered if private parties having large tracts of land approach the State Government. He also declared that government would change the rules relating to acquisition of land for tourism projects in the State.
The proposal for Special Tourism Zones has to be dropped because it will increase the pressure over natural and other resources like land, water, forests and will lead to environmental destruction,revenue losses and lack of real economic development of the state, breakdown of governance systems especially of the Panchayats with the creation of enclaves and lack of equal and non-exploitative employment opportunities for local communities in STZs. Government should withdraw this move especially in the context of the recent controversies on Special Economic Zones (SEZ).
Currently Kerala Tourism and industry says that Kerala has an upper hand in tourism since it is now a much sought after destination. So it is in the profiteering interest of the tourism industry to set up projects in Kerala. The state should not provide further incentives and subsidies to attract investments. Instead, the state should cut down existing incentives and subsidies and introduce new taxes for the people of Kerala to benefit from tourism.
Kerala Tourism has a strong record of proving that planning, policies and regulations to date have not effectively addressed major problems caused by tourism. These include the unsustainable extraction of ground water in tourism spots such as Kovalam, which is causing a serious lack of drinking water for local communities. Problems also include the land speculation activities related to tourism especially in the coastal and backwater areas, and pollution of the backwaters by the tourism industry. The tourism industry has a significant role in spoiling the mangrove belt and the breading areas of fishes in the Vembanad Lake. Sustainable waste management systems are lacking in the state.
The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) violations by hotels and resorts are a serious concern in the state, and so is the uncontrolled tourism development in Kovalam and Kumarakom, which has lead to many environmental and social problems. There are disturbing indications that prostitution including the commercial sexual exploitation of children is happening in tourist destinations in Kerala.
Here, we request you to appoint a commission, where representatives of civil society organisations and people's groups should be part, to assess the environmental, social and economic damages done by tourism industry within the state before initiating new projects, plans and marketing strategies.
We would like to bring to your attention to amend the Kerala Tourism (Conservation & Preservation of Areas) Act 2005, passed by the previous UDF government, which effectively strips Panchayats of their powers by constituting a committee dominated by bureaucrats.
We also appeal your intervention to stop Kerala Tourism's move to use "Responsible Tourism" for its marketing. Foreign consultants with dubious credentials have either been approached by the government or have volunteered to showcase Kerala as an example of "Responsible Tourism" while no serious steps have been taken to even remedy the environmental and social damages created by irresponsible tourism development in State in the past four decades. We request you to stop the involvement of these industry-biased consultants in the development of tourism within the state.
Honourable Minister of Home Affairs and Tourism Sri. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.
Honourable Minister of Finance Dr. Thomas Isaac.
For more details please contact: Forum KERALA, C/o TC 354, Muttada.P.O, Thiruvananthapuram 25, Kerala.
Phone Numbers: Ajayan – 9895007171, Anivar Aravind – 9446545336,
Santhosh Kumar K.C. – 9447375708, Sumesh Mangalassery – 9388402948