//Open Letter to Kerala CM : Forum Kerala

Open Letter to Kerala CM : Forum Kerala

Sri. V.S. Achuthanandan  
Honourable Chief Minister of  Kerala  

Sub: Appeal against the  approval of Special Tourism Zones within the state.  
Dear Sir,  
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.  
Copy to:  

Honourable Minister of Home Affairs and Tourism Sri. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.  
Honourable Minister of Finance Dr. Thomas Isaac.


Forum  KERALA 
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