Sustainable Tourism in Kumarakom – A Case Study
kumarakom is situated on the banks of the Vembanad Kayal (backwater), 10 km. west of the Kottayam District Head Quarters in Kerala. Kumarakom, a backwater tourism hub is gaining strategic place in on the tourist map due to its natural charm and aesthetic beauty. Tourism development in Kumarakom started with the lease of KTDC land in the bird sanctuary area to Taj Kerala Resorts Limited in the 1989. Tourism has developed rapidly in the area hence Prime Minister A B Vajpayee’s visit in 2000 December and his popular ‘Musings from Kumarakom’ has created much hype among tourists in this otherwise calm village. Kumarakom panchayat at present has 8 big resorts contributing to 580 beds and creating direct employment opportunities for 740 people and indirect employment opportunities for 324 others. Meagre employment gains
The employment opportunity in the tourism sector was not favourable to the local community with 80% of the regular employees in big hotels appointed from outside Kumarakom. A study conducted by EQUATIONS in 2000, “Women’s participation in tourism development” revealed that most of the labourers lost their traditional occupations. Women and agricultural labourers displaced from the lands converted for tourism could not be compensated with alternative jobs. The contract labourers appointed by the tourism industry did not have job security and were terminated at any time without assigning any reason. Although these workers are eligible for minimum wages, they are paid at much lower rates.The clustering of the resorts on the banks of Vembanad Kayal denied access to local people involved in fishing and shell collection to the kayal. The increased number of speedboats, motor boats and house boats plying as part of the tourism development has resulted in the damage of fishing nets of the community bathe in the Vembanad kayal. Tourist resorts have even gone to the extent of privatising and appropriation of kayal and use it to promote their business without due regard to the regulations placed by the panchayat. The natural banks of kayal, once covered with thick mangrove forests are now replaced by granite walls to get an uninterrupted vision of kayal from their property. The felling of mangrove forests has completely destroyed the breeding grounds of fish resulting in the diminishing of number in fish. The fish species – Half beak (Hemir amphus) that were abundant in the lake have now reduced substantially threatening the livelihood of fishermen dependent on this catch.Hotel Waterscapes of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) is situated very near the bird sanctuary and mangrove forests. The two mangrove swamps on the northwest corner of the KTDC complex were the only breeding ground for Night Herons in Kerala in the 80s. The clearance of trees in the entrance area of the complex has ensured the vanishing of one third of bird population in the last decade. The attack on the mangroves by KTDC still continues as the mangroves at the bird sanctuary have been drastically cut in February 2004 for easy visibility of birds for tourists. The Taj Group had placed bright lights in the hotel to avoid birds coming to their property. The irony is that tourism has contributed nothing in improving the infrastructure development or the development of service and productive sectors in Kumarakom. A socio-economic survey conducted by EQUATIONS in 2000 among 139 households of the village, 62 responded that tourism has had no contribution in improving road/transport, 87 responded ‘NO’ to the availability of water, 90 responded ‘NO’ to the availability of electricity, 80 responded ‘NO’ to the availability of Sewerage & Drainage and 99 responded ‘NO’ to the availability of employment for the question – “Has tourism contributed in improving of the following?”. The local groups and other civil society organisation raised concerns on the impacts of tourism through an...
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