Have you been to Alleppey?

Alleppey House boats

Alleppey House boats

Have you been to Alleppey? Tourism Concern wants talk to tour operators that that arranges houseboat trips into the backwaters of Alleppey.
We are very keen to hear from anyone who has been to Kerala in India especially if you have taken a trip on one of the houseboats. We want to better understand the tourist experience and to further investigate concerns that unregulated expansion might be impacting negatively on the environment.
Tourism Concern has been working with partner organisations in southern India ever since the tsunami of 2004. Communities who had been devastated were now facing a range of problems being wrought by aggressive tourism development – exploiting their vulnerability, forcing them off their land and threatening their livelihoods.
Tourism Concern managed a large DFID-funded project: Empowering Coastal Communities for Effective Tourism Policy Engagement, which ran from 2009 to 2012, working closely with some of these communities. Although challenging at times, it was particularly effective in the Alleppey region of Kerala where, working with our local partners, we developed a comprehensive network for in-depth engagement with grassroots level groups, particularly women.
The network fed back information via a survey of nearly 1000 households, answering a range of questions to assess awareness of tourismissues, plans for tourism development, their rights and means of asserting them, whether they benefit from tourism etc, as well as negative impacts of tourism. One clear outcome was an overwhelming concern that houseboat tourism, while providing clear economic benefits to local people, was also creating a number of environmental and social problems. A range of issues have also been raised bytourists returning from such trips, expressing concern that without improvement in the way that boats are operated, backwaters tourism is becoming increasingly unsustainable.
As you may know local people use the backwaters of Alleppey for cooking, drinking and washing – as well as for transportation, fishing and agriculture. The backwaters of Alleppey are also increasingly popular with tourists, who hire thatched houseboats to explore the tranquil palm-fringed waters and picturesque villages. However, there is a concern that unregulated tourism expansion is threatening these rural communities and their environment, as well as undermining the economic benefits it brings to local people.
Tourism Concern is working with local organisations and tourism stakeholders in Alleppey to develop a meaningful code of practice for houseboat operators by which to encourage greater sustainability.

Save Alleppey

For centuries the backwaters of Alleppey, Kerala have been used by local people for cooking, drinking and washing as well as for transportation, fishing and agriculture. They are also increasingly popular with tourists, who hire thatched houseboats to explore the tranquil palm-fringed waters and picturesque villages.

However, unregulated tourism expansion is threatening rural communities and their environment, as well as undermining the economic benefits it brings to local people.

Tourism Concern is campaigning for immediate action by the Kerala Department of Tourism to ensure Alleppey tourism is both sustainable and of benefit to local communities.

What’s the problem?

Unregulated tourism expansion is threatening rural communities and their environment as well as undermining the economic benefits it brings to local people.

  • Sewage and plastic waste is being dumped into the waterways. Over 80 per cent of households living along or near the backwaters rely on its water for daily drinking and cooking. However, less than half of these residents reportedly treat the water before consuming it and many have no alternative water supply.
  • Local fishermen state that fuel, sewage and plastic are affecting fish and prawn catches.
  • Livelihoods within the agricultural sector are also being severely hit. Paddy fields are directly irrigated by the backwaters, which means that oil, sewage and rubbish from the houseboats easily flows into these agricultural units. Furthermore, farmers attribute recent incidences of ill health to prolonged contact with polluted water.
  • Locals people’s privacy and culture is being invaded. Tourist boats are mooring wherever they want, and often near to private houses and even directly overlooking them. Locals also tell of inappropriate behaviour by visitors, including drunkenness, noise and explicitly sexual behaviour etc.

The people of Alleppey need your help

With support from Tourism Concern, local groups are already carrying out research on carrying capacity and developing a Code of Practice for houseboat operators (and tourists themselves). They have asked us (and you) for support in campaigning for effective regulation that takes into account the voices of local people.


The coast of Kerala is fringed with a network of lakes, rivers and canals, which make up the idyllic backwaters. Alleppey (also known as Alappuzha) is the most popular backwater destination, attracting several thousand tourists every year, including many from the UK (Zacharias et al, 2008).

Most visitors spend some time on a houseboat – a converted rice barge complete with sleeping quarters, bathroom, kitchen and staff. However, while benefitting some, the exponential growth of houseboat tourism is being met with mounting concern and resentment from many local communities.

But poorly regulated houseboat tourism development is affecting water quality, ecosystems, and traditional livelihoods. Alleppey’s waterways are home to over 10,000 people. Their entire way of life is intimately connected to the backwaters, which they rely upon for fishing, drinking, bathing, cooking, and other livelihood activities, such as rice farming and toddy-tapping (harvesting of mildly fermented coconut water).

R. Visakhan, president of a local panchayat (village-level government) states: “Life is very much related to water. The livelihood of the people, such as agriculture and fishing activities, depends on the quality of water here”.

Fish catches down
Local fishermen confirm that fuel and oil pollution are affecting the quality of fish and prawn catches.“The houseboats are threatening our livelihood. The fish stock is also reducing,” said K. Raju, a fisherman from Kainakari. Another fisherman reported: “We have taken a loan from the bank for the small fishing boat and net. Now we are unable to repay the loan because we are not getting enough catch and sale.”

Drinking water
A primary school teacher reported: “Most of our parent-teacher meetings nowadays revolve around the issues of water… Mothers and fathers are worried that the presence of tourists is a bad influence on the children. But they’re mostly worried about their health, and them not drinking enough water as there are frequent shortages of drinkable water. It’s a shame, given that we are surrounded by it!”

Another local man stated: “People don’t want to drink the lake’s water anymore. It tastes of petrol and smells bad. There’s oil floating on the top, even after it is boiled. They’re worried because they see the fish floating dead on the water, and the fish tastes bad as well. So they’ve asked for water from the city, but they don’t give enough. Every morning they worry about the water.”

Agricultural impacts
A farmer of Thankamani reported: “Our paddy fields are in a very bad shape due to the pollution. We are not getting agricultural workers, because they are afraid to work in the polluted paddy fields due to health concerns. I am also suffering from skin diseases because of the long contact with the contaminated water.”

Stemming the flow?
In its 2011 tourism strategy, Kerala Tourism acknowledges that houseboat pollution and density is a problem (Kerala Tourism, 2011). Its answer is to “to disperse houseboat operation and cruise activities to relatively underused stretches and regions”, while encouraging the use of improved waste management systems. However, unless it first establishes clear carrying capacities for all regions in consultation with local communities, and actively enforces and monitors boat numbers and their utilisation of waste management systems, it risks simply spreading the problem elsewhere.

Empowering local communities and campaigning for change
Our recently completed project  in India funded by the UK’s DFID aimed to empower local communities to engage with tourism issues more effectively. In Alleppey this work included consultation and training, working towards specific proposals on these issues. Possibilities now being explored by local groups include research on carrying capacity and developing a Code of Practice for houseboat operators (and tourists themselves). Our support has  been requested in campaigning for change in three areas:

  • Effective regulation – While there are some existing regulations to help ameliorate many of the above problems, they need effective enforcement. Further regulation may also be needed.
  • Listening to local voices – Tourism in Alleppey needs to be more people-focused. Policy currently focuses on the industry’s needs and on expansion, but does not adequately consult with local communities – those who are carrying the burden of this tourism.
  • Raising awareness – There are other backwater areas where houseboat tourism is also becoming popular – and the same issues hence increasingly apply – such as in Ernakulum (Cochin) and Kollam areas.

9 Healthy Benefits Of Massage

Last week, a new study found that massage really does work to ease those sore muscles after a tough workout. Just 10 minutes can reduce inflammation, which can help your body recover. (It’s a great week for bodywork and Massage!

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com

The benefits of body work, Bowen or Massage, go beyond the benefits of fixing a few sore muscles. Here are a few more reasons for a massage.

Do we have a moral debt?


Is there something mystical that impels us?

Do we have a moral debt both personally a as a society?

The boast of Spiritual India hopes to attract in tourists and here in Bhopal, I am reminded that Emperor Ashoka attempted to house the ashes of the Buddha at Sanchi only 40 kilometres east of my Bhopal home.

After all, spirituality is more than glossy brochures. Spirituality is an inner transformation that reaches out to light the world. So while economic rationalists suggest development must come first, perhaps if we cleanse our moral debts of the burden of guilt then money will come.

Thich Nhat Hanh retells the Sutra on a Sons Flesh this way:

The Buddha once told his monks this story: A couple and their young son were crossing a vast desert on their way to seek asylum in another land. But they hadn’t planned well and were only halfway across the desert when they ran out of food. Realizing that all three would die in the desert, the parents made a horrifying decision: they decided to kill and eat their child. Every morning they ate a morsel of his flesh, just enough for the energy to walk a little further, all the while crying, “Where is our little boy?” They carried the rest of the son’s flesh on their shoulders, so it could continue to dry in the sun. Every night the couple looked at each other and asked, “where is our beloved child now?” And they cried and pulled their hair, and beat their chests with grief…

And the Buddha said, “We have to practice eating in such a way that will retain compassion in our heart. We have to eat in mindfulness. Otherwise we will be eating the flesh of our own children.”

Are we consuming our world mindlessly? Recently I heard Jane Goodall argue we must reconnect  head and heart if we are to reconnect to the web of life. We are but one thread in the web, and if the web is destroyed so is the threads within it.

We must embrace our humanity. Be enraged with injustice. From the age of ten, Jane Goodall wanted to live with Animals, when it seemed an almost absurd idea. Set your goal to change the world. Don’t let put downs put you off.

Young people will speak, the collective consciousness of repressed indigenous peoples will be heard.  Do we push the rush to unsustainable development  or develop smart ecofriendly solutions?

The question is how.

Do we invite collaboraton or will it be forced upon our unwilling hearts?

For me to reach that end I must know first two things: What is the heart of India? What is the heart of Australia?

The struggle for balance is nothing new to India.

Hinduism proclaims four goals in human life (purusarthas) dharma, artha, kama and moksha, of which the first three, or trivarga, are practiced in this world. If practiced successfully, liberation or moksha from the cycle of rebirths, is attained.

Dharma or right conduct is often considered the most important, artha, the pursuit of economic goods is second. However, the author of the Arthasastra suggests kama and dharma flow from success in this world and is therefore superior.  However, the sage Bhima argued in the Mahabharata “Kama is better than Dharma and Artha. As nectar is extracted from flowers, so is Kama to be extracted from these two. Kama is the parent of Dharma and Artha. Kama is the soul of these two.”

I suggest if we follow our duty with integrity, life will be blessed with passion. Or as the Hebrew writer put it “A man skilled in his work will be stationed before Kings.”

The first two must be given priority for the kama to arise transcendent? Has the modern world got this backwards.

Theologians of different faiths can argue if we are haunted by the karma of past lives, or whether we simply drink the bitter  wine pressed by past generations.

Rather than believe in the power of money alone, I would chose to hope that passion and reward come from integrity within my person.   What if our society could wash its debt to the past?

Tara Brach suggested that Eco Denial is a response to the unbelievable grief to damage done to painful to face. Our Earth has become both a supply source and a sewer. Societies rush to deforest and pollute in the rush for fossil fuel, is like a diabetic rushing to consume more sugar, or the obese rushing for more McDonalds.

Ignoring traditional peoples scarred by similar denials.

But despair can also force us to be present with our eco social reality. The flip side of despair is love. Being present, if only we truly feel it, may motivate deep personal and social transformation.

To realise where we stand so we can decide what will be best for us. How we can do our duty (dharma), achieve success (artha) and enjoy the passion of life.

 “The pain we feel for our world is a living testimony to our interconnectedness with it. “ said Joanna Macy “If we deny this pain, we become like blocked and atrophied neurons, deprived of life’s flow and weakening the larger body in which we take being. But if we let it move through us, we affirm our belonging; our collective awareness increases. We can open to the pain of the world in confidence that it can neither shatter nor isolate us, for we are not objects that can break. We are resilient patterns within a vaster web of knowing.”

Follow your star, ignore all your detractors . Let it shine to make the world a better place.

Herbs as more than drugs

Herbs by Arcadian Spaceship

I do not see herbs as drugs. They certainly can have a drug action and must be used with respect.

However, I prefer to look beyond the mediatisation f herbs as active ingredients. Perhaps it is because of the need for herbalism to be tested and verified scientifically. This is in itself a needed. However, we consume 25000 different phytochemicals during our life and their interactions are incompletely understood.

Traditional herbalism considers the whole plant (where possible) in synergy with the life experience.

This is why I feel home gardening is so important. Herbs should be experienced. Herbs and plants should be part of our sense experience. To feel the touch and smell of aromatics that sadly few truly experience.

It is why I fear the over commercialisation of plants. The reduction of phytochemical diversity in a world of what Guido Mase calls “Plant Deprivation”

Plant life should be enmeshed in daily life: food, ritual for beauty and the delight of the senses. Integrated and not just as a natural drug to cure a disease. Plants are the great networkers that bring nutrition from the earth .

The renaissance writers attempted to link nature, religion, science and psychology. In a way we need to return to a polytheism of the soul, or at least a recognition of the many components of life and psyche much as the internet can connect so many things together. What if we could also model life on ecology, mind and soul, instead of dryly divorced from it?

It would transcend economic interests. It would require a consensus that while less efficient , such a cooperative would mirror the ecologies collective, collaborative back loops that and not the hierarchical systems of corporation.

An environmental spiritual disease


The power of science has both helped and hindered us. In particular, the mechanistic model of the earth -body machine. Roger Bacon wished to conquer nature and Descarte’s mind body split is , perhaps unfairly, is used to justify seeing the world as something “other”, a Newtonian machine.

Thw problem is best majestically described by Charles Eisenstein:


Not only is the desacralization of the body and physicality a poison to the world, it is a profound untruth as well. For the body is not the house of the spirit, it is the spirit taken physical form. And the world, too, is not the creation of divinity, it is divinity as presented to our senses. At least, that is an essential premise of this book. Issues of nurturance, self-trust, and mindfulness, even in the “basely physical” realm of food, reverberate with spiritual significance. That is because life in the world is a sacred journey, and matters of the flesh are potential vehicles for spiritual transformation.

According to this premise, the health crisis engulfing the modern world is a spiritual crisis, and a precious opportunity as well. Pain and illness in the body can illuminate what is important in life, and help us perceive the preciousness of life itself. Pain and illness bring us back to ourselves. Poor health can also be a message on many levels that something is not right. From the perspective of mechanistic science, the body is a faulty machine that needs an expert to repair it, an attitude analogous to the technological fix that ecologists criticize as a response to environmental problems. But if body and soul are not separate, then to heal the body at the deepest level is a work of the soul, and to listen to and learn from the body is to become closer to one’s Self.
– Charles Eisenstein The Yoga of Eating

Image: la noche oscura del almaby PsycheAnamnesis < http://fav.me/d5dnsob&gt;

How Might We Design A Model Of Sustainable Eco-Tourism? | Design Online

See on Scoop.itMadhya Pradesh Tourism

Brian Sullivan‘s insight:

Not specifically India, I found John Thackars recomendations –  tourusm as a sharing experience, rather than as a destination – a useful way to see how tourists could be drawn to expeeirence and participate in Tribal Madhya Pradesh.

See on designonline.org.au

The Ten Must Ask questions for your Physician Candidate


When travelling oversees for healthcare, what are the questions you need to ask?

Complements of Patiemt’s Without Borders the are the questions a Medical tourist need to ask the physician directly or through a health care travel agent.

  1. What are your credentials? Where did you receive your medical degree? Where was your internship? What types of continuing education workshops have you attended recently?  The right candidate will have his credentials on the web or email them to you.
  2. How many patients do you see each month? Hopefully more than 50 and less than 500. A good doctor will be in touch with their customers. If they don’t know be suspicious.
  3. To what association do you belong? A good physician keeps company with other skilled professionals. They should be part of atleast one medical association.
  4. How many patients have you treated with my condition? There is safety in numbers.
  5. What are the fees of your initial consultation? Compare the answer to other physicians you interview
  6. May I call you on my cell phone before, during and after treatment? Most international surgeons prefer to keep in close contact with their patients and the cell phone is their first choice.
  7. What personal and medical records do you need to assess my condition and treatment needs? Most surgeons require atleast the recent consultation notes of doctor and specialist, relevant X-Rays, medical history, health records. Be wary of any specialist not requiring health records.
  8. Do you practice alone, or in a clinic or hospital? Prefer a specialist who practices with a group of professionals with a broad range of skills.

For Surgery

  1. Do you do the surgery yourself or do you have assistants do the surgery? Be assured the procedure is not delegated to his protégé.
  2. “Are you the surgeon who oversees the entire treatment, including pre-surgery, surgery, prescriptions, physical therapy recommendations and post-surgery check-ups?” You want a team captain for larger procedures, which is usually the surgeon.

Image: Medical Tourism Asia – logoby ~edsonworks <http://fav.me/d1vilp4&gt;