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.

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.

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

Museum of Mankind: Bhopal’s Tribal Paradise

Tribal Dance 155res

Madhya Pradesh is verdant green, with large wildlife reserves that is shared by MP’s Tribal people. An eco-tourists dream,  Tribals represent 20% of the states  population.

So it is no surprise to find the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya Museum of Mankind in the capital city Bhopal. A beautiful laid back 200 acre open air anthropology exhibit over looking Bhopals Upper Lake. It is the largest museum of its type in India. It includes life size huts life reconstruct tribal life from all of India scattered over a wide area and. the indoor Museum of Mankind, exhibiting human evolution, culture and India’s  Tribal people.

A small cafeteria offers you chai to seep into tranquillity.

Themed ‘Diversities of India’s cultural patterns and the underlying unity’, the museum celebrates the ‘simultaneous validity’ of various valuable cultural patterns evolved over thousands of years. A gallery of tribal history from the four corners of India, it is appropriately located in Bhopal, as twenty percent of Madhya Pradesh population  is Tribal.

IGRMS Bhopal, Tribal Village

The Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya is not only a living working model of tribal life, but hosts cultural performance and dance, exhibitions, artist workshops and educational programs. It is ideal for families, and students. More like a park than a museum it’s a beautiful spot for a picnic.

In my frequent to Bhopal I have enjoyed spectacular performances of Tribal  and  Kathak dance. In 2012 hosted Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya a workshop for traditional and herbal therapies used by Tribal people, a three day Tribal dance Festival and a Festival of traditional Indian dance.

Sadly this beautiful centre is missed by most tourists .The regular cultural evenings are poorly advertised meaning that tourists do realise that Bhopal is a cultural centre. Close to the State Museum of Madhya Pradesh, off Science Centre Road, in Shymala Hills, TT Nagar, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.

Also annoying spelling errors mar the indoormuseum  – common even in Government buildings and document. It has the feel of a work in progress. Still, on the whole, it is beautiful and engaging.

Hours are from March to August 11.00 to 18.30 and September to Feb 10.00 to 17.30. Open every day except Mondays and National Holidays.


Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya Museum of Mankind

Entrance Fee:

10 rupee for adults

5 rupee for children to 12 years or students with an identity card.

Foreigners pay 100 rupees.

Group discounts may apply for recognised educational organisations.

Festivals and cultural evenings are usually free.

Close to the Museum of Madhya Pradesh, off Science Centre Road, in Shymala Hills, TT Nagar, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.o the Sta

Slightly out of the way, in this very rural of cities, a car or auto-rickshaw is probably a best choice from the Bittan Market, or 12 Number, from Main Road, cross TT Nagar Road, and continue into Science Centre Road.


Your trip should be life changing, not just a holiday! For a life changing eco-tourism experience, click here.   




Ecotourism is a responsible way to travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people. It offers market-linked long-term solutions and provides effective economic incentives for conserving and enhancing bio-cultural diversity and helps protect the natural and cultural heritage of the local region. By increasing local capacity building and employment opportunities, ecotourism is an effective vehicle for empowering local communities around the world to fight against poverty and to achieve sustainable development. With an emphasis on enriching personal experiences and environmental awareness through interpretation, ecotourism promotes greater understanding and appreciation for nature, local society, and culture.

Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement and participate in ecotourism activities should follow the following ecotourism principles:

  • Minimize impact.
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
  • Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people.
  • Raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climate.

Madhya Pradesh – The Indian Heart

The heart of Incredible India is Madhya Pradesh, the gateway to ancient civilizations, a dignified fusion of the old and the new. A palmiest of tribal culture and heritage, flourishing in verdant forests Madhya Pradesh offers you adventure and serenity. No other state in India, but Madhya Pradesh, enmeshes so many different flavors of tradition and culture.

The geographic heart of India, Madhya Pradesh is a vibrant cultural collage of faith and heritage. A cauldron of  cultures beautifully retaining an amalgamated heritage with distinctive zeal.

Madhya Pradesh culture is a harmonious amalgamation of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, and Sikhs. It is also home to some of India’s the most prominent tribal communities. Twenty percent of Madhya Pradesh population are Tribal, contributing to the rich cultural saga of Madhya Pradesh, blending their indigenous cultures to its large melting pot.

Madhya Pradesh is  an expression of ‘diversity’.

‘Unity in Diversity’, is a foundation for India’s secular state, and here in Madhya Pradesh, people belonging to numerous religions, castes and creeds, no internecine feuds exist amongst them.

For good reason, Madhya Pradesh was the heart of Indian civilization:  Skeletal remains suggest Homo-erectus roamed the Narmada Valley 500,000 years ago. Moreover, the tribal communities of the state comprises of different tribes like Bhils, Gonds, Oraons, Kols, Bhilals, Murias and Korkus, to name a few. These people belonging to numerous religions and ethnic backgrounds reflect the concept of Indian secularism and contribute to the animated cultural effervescence of the state. Go through this article and get a kaleidoscopic glimpse of the cultural heritage of Madhya Pradesh.

Madhya Pradesh emerged as an Indian state in the year 1956. During that period, the state also rose to prominence as the largest state in India. However, with the bifurcation of Chhattisgarh in 2000, the modern-day Madhya Pradesh came into being.



The Cultural Museum of India

The state of Madhya Pradesh can be termed as a cultural museum of India.

Its capital, Bhopal, is well-connected nationally by a, rail or road. It’s broad tree-lined roads, fashionable markets and cultural centers and museums, radiate from two medieval lakes and the old city’s bustling crowds, winding alleys and to Asia’s largest mosque, the Taj-ul-Masajid.

The old and new city of Bhopal are bipolar with their singular charms, yet confluence to impart the place its exemplary beauty. From the Gulmohar studded broad boulevards to its labyrinthine alleys, you cannot miss Bhopal’s pervasive celestial quaintness. The old bazaars are inexhaustible storehouses of traditional handicrafts. Beaded handiwork and high-quality fabrics are a popular tourist attraction.

Bhopal is in easy reach of two World Heritage sites. The serene calm of Sanchi, built by Mauryan Emperor Asoka to house the Buddha’s remains and the prehistoric rock shelters of Bhimbetka.

Palaces and temples reveal a rich history of great heroes. Cenotaphs and Chhatris poised on the Betwa river commemorate the 15th century rulers of Orccha. The ruined remains of Islampur, built by Pushtan conquer Dost Mohammad Khan lay 11 kilometers from Bhopal. Gwalior displays masterpieces of Indian architecture.

The state of Madhya Pradesh is nothing but a treasure for all those who love to experience jungle thrills and adventurous lookouts. The national parks and sanctuaries of the state teem with some of the most interesting wildlife species found in India. Apart from that, many endangered species also have seen revival within their precincts. Excitement lurks amidst the folds of these parks, in the form of tigers, leopards, bisons, gaurs, deer and a wide variety of reptiles and birds. In fact, the wildlife sanctuaries of Madhya Pradesh offer good opportunities to watch wildlife, amidst natural locales.

Easily accessible from major towns and cities of the state, these sanctuaries, and parks are prime draws as far as tourists visiting Madhya Pradesh are concerned. With India’s largest area of verdant forest Madhya Pradesh offers you a picturesque adventure of rappelling, rock climbing, nature walks, trekking, bird watching, and mountain biking.