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Leave beaches to nature

Leave beaches to nature
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An open letter to Special Chief Secretary and Secretary Tourism and Culture Chandana Khan; A Visakhapatnam Collector V Seshadri; and Vice-Chairman...

An open letter to Special Chief Secretary and Secretary Tourism and Culture Chandana Khan; A Visakhapatnam Collector V Seshadri; and Vice-Chairman Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority N Yuvraj regarding the Vizag-Bhimili Beach Tourism Project. Dear Sir/Madam, At the outset, let me congratulate the Tourism Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh, for securing funds for the Beach Tourism Project from the Government of India. It is important that the funds are spent to enhance the value of the coastal resources. In this connection, the department would do well to keep in mind the following suggestions:
The Beaches
While welcoming the initiative of the state and the central governments in promoting tourism in the city, I wish to point out that the best beaches in the world are those that are left to the nature, in terms of sand dune formation, ground cover, growth of foliage and aquatic remains like shells. The only intervention that is necessary is to keep them clean, pollution free, and safe for the people. The famous Kovalam and Goa beaches have followed such a policy and have become famous internationally, drawing tourists from all parts of the world. One can see along the Goa beaches a strict compliance with Coastal Regulation Zone, resulting in the beaches remaining free from structures and retaining their pristine beauty. Artificial decorations, cement concrete structures, leveling of sand dunes, introduction of alien foliage will only result in creating a negative impact on the pristine purity of the beach environment. The present project envisages heavy construction activity along the beach in the form of parks, approach roads, reception centers, pavilions, amphitheaters, plazas and pathways. Apparently, those who prepared the project have no appreciation of what should constitute eco-tourism nor do they seem to understand the law of the land. The proposed tourism project must not violate CRZ, The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958 (Act No. 24 of 1958) and VUDA's Master Plan.
An inclusive tourism project, which involves the local communities, will lead to sustainable tourism. Consultation with the local fishing community and factoring in their views and suggestions are a prerequisite for ensuring sustainability and inclusivity of the project. The boys and girls from the fishing villages should be trained and employed in it. Their knowledge of the coast and its resources should be fully tapped. They could be employed as lifeguards and guides as many of them are good swimmers and are familiar with the local conditions. Visakhapatnam is a water starved city. Large parts of the city are deprived of water supply at present and the situation will only become worse in the coming years and decades. As such, landscaping of the beach with manicured lawns and gardens which are highly water-intensive, will not be prudent. Only such vegetation which is naturally suitable to the beach environment should be encouraged. The invitation/brochure that is being distributed as a statement of intent of the Department of Tourism is reflective of the thinking of the government in that it is highly western in concept. Sixty years after Independence, we need to think Indian and plan Indian. The majority of the people who visit the beaches are not Europeans (as shown in the brochure) but the locals. The project must be designed to cater to their needs. Street vending is a major attraction in the Indian tourist scene. The small street venders should be provided with enclosures, where they can sell their wares without being harassed, and also add value to tourism. A specified enclosure with good parking facilities, similar to Delhi Haat, could be created, for the demonstration/sale of handicrafts. Bhimunipatnam The township of Bhimunipatnam with its Dutch heritage would have offered tremendous scope for tourism. A seminar was held in the year 2002 to discuss the very question of the conservation of the town's heritage. Ten years down the line much of that heritage has been erased by real estate developers. I enclose the recommendations made by the group of architects at the seminar for your ready reference. Perhaps, it is a good idea to incorporate some of those suggestions into the present tourism project even at this late stage. Capt Lawrence Nathaniel and other old residents of the town of Bhimunipatnam have proposed a Maritime Museum in the town. I understand that the Indian Navy is willing to donate a decommissioned ship to VUDA for converting it into a museum, on the same lines as Kursura Submarine museum near R K Beach. I also learn that VUDA is finding it hard to find an appropriate location for such a project. This ship may safely be grouted at a suitable location at Bhimunipatnam, and a Dutch structure, which is in a reasonably good state, may be converted into a Maritime Museum. The Museum could house maps, books, artifacts and other related material. Such a project will add value to the tourist potential of the township of Bhimunipatnam. I enclose the project report, prepared for the Maritime Museum, for your ready reference. Rani Sarma, Maharanipeta, Visakhapatnam (The writer is environmental and heritage activist)
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