Nearly three million fish workers along India’s coastline depend on fishing for their livelihood and many more are engaged in inland fishing in rivers across the country. The development of tourism undermines local government authority and decision-making. The industry’s growth has reduced land holdings of the communities, destroyed the ecosystem and dependent livelihoods.
The coastal ecology is not only one of the most dynamic ecologies, but its diversity also allows for a wide range of uses. Because of the excessive exploitation of the coast for its abundant resources, it is among the most threatened zones.
Nearly three million fish workers along India's coastline depend on fishing for their livelihood and many more are engaged in inland fishing in rivers across the country. The development of tourism undermines local government authority and decision-making. The industry's growth has reduced landholdings of the communities, destroyed the ecosystem and dependent livelihoods.
Resorts take away prime coasts across the state and expose villages to the wrath of the waves. 'Resisting Coastal Invasion' a film directed by the award-winning documentary maker K.P. Sasi contained a poignant shot of barbed wire fences stretching across an entire neighbourhood in the Mararikulam beach of Alappuzha district blocking fisherfolk from going out to sea.
In 2002, fishermen were denied access to traditional fishing grounds on the island of Jambudwip by the Forest Department, which resulted in serious conflicts and the death of people. The eviction drive by the Forest Department on the orders of the Supreme Court and concurrent development activities of the Government resulted in escalating conflicts.
The ongoing shift to large scale fishing, utilising trawlers which operate further into the sea than traditional methods allow, is opening up the beaches for tourism. All of this activity chases away animals and fish and pollutes the beaches and water. This affects all fishermen, those working a small scale more so, but medium and large scale operations face similar problems caused by unrestricted tourism at the shore.
Coastal vegetation is crucial to soil integrity. It keeps the sand and the land in place, if you can find beaches that have not yet been occupied by tourism activities, you'll see that coastal vegetation often extends right up to the high tide mark, and is usually followed by agricultural fields immediately inland. This vegetation controls the extent of soil erosion, keeps the land safe and arable and prevents sea ingress.
In Kerala, mangrove forests that sprawled over an area of 70,000 hectares are now reduced to less than 700 hectares. Backwaters that were a scenic 55,000 hectares are now just 30,000 hectares. Salt-water marshes and water bodies reduced from 242,000 hectares to 65,200 hectares. The destruction of these systems is already leading to massive shortages in groundwater (further exacerbated by the industrial demand for water that comes with such development).
Coasts are important nesting and feeding grounds for several terrestrial and aquatic species. These coastal habitats also provide sustenance and livelihood opportunities to several coastal communities (both fishing and non-fishing communities). Sand-pipers birds that lay eggs after digging small holes sandy beaches, as do turtles whose babies often rely on moonlight to guide them into the sea after hatching. These creatures have all but disappeared from beaches where tourism takes place. The light, noise, and chemical pollution tourism brings with it leaves no room for wildlife.
The tsunami showed how catastrophic the impacts of unplanned and unregulated development could be. But the lesson has not yet been learnt. EQUATIONS strives to gain a comprehensive understanding of issues affecting coasts, rivers and other water-linked ecologies and their ruthless degradation.