The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 was the biggest natural disaster in modern history and it called for a pan-Asian relief effort on a scale that had never before been seen. The immediate impact on the coastal communities affected not only their lives, homes and villages, but also their livelihoods. Many survivors fished to earn their living, farmed close to the sea or relied on low scale tourism.
In India and Sri Lanka, even five years after tsunami, people remain displaced from their homes and livelihoods because of planned developments from which they have been excluded and marginalized. While they are yet to be re-housed, the land that they lived on is regarded by policy and decision makers’ prime real estate for major tourism developments. Therefore tourism development is seriously threatening to increase their poverty and hardship by forcing people from their homes and blocking their access to the sea. Developers have also been ‘privatising’ communal beachfront land by building private roads, erecting fences, and posting security guards. As a result of coastline tourism development, local people may only have land available to them which is far and from the sea making it impossible to continue with their beach based livelihoods.
Two sustainable tourism organizations; Tourism Concern and Kabani have been working for over three years with coastal communities in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, in south India. These organizations have dedicated their work to raise awareness of the threats posed by tourism. Their joint project has been working to strengthen the capacity of local communities and networks to challenge government policies and tourism developments that threaten their livelihoods and human rights. The project include thousands of Asian tsunami survivors to support them as they confront plans for major tourism developments and to ensure that such developments are truly sustainable and take their needs into account.
Tourism Concern is also supporting the initiative through lobbying and advocacy work in the UK. Today, March 3, 2010, at London Metropolitan University, Tourism Concern offers a unique opportunity for organization’s supporters in to obtain a grassroots perspective on the problems people face as a result of tourism development. Read more here!
Text: Emily H?ckert
Main reference: Tourism Concern
Image: Tourism Concern