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.

Background

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.
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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.

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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.

TribalHealers

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

 

 

Benefitting Tourism

There are a number of benefits of tourism for both the tourist and the host destination. On a large scale, it offers a good alternative to some more destructive industries for generating income both on nationally and privately.

The tourism industry encompasses many different areas, so it also creates jobs in many different areas. With tourism come hotels, restaurants, car rental agencies, tour companies, service stations, souvenir shops, sports equipment rentals, and much more. All of this creates many different levels of employment for people in a given community.

In many places the introduction and development of tourism allows local people an opportunity for economic and educational growth that would not otherwise be available. In addition, it allows both the tourist and the local community a chance to experience other cultures, which broadens understanding.

If properly used, tourism generated income can be tremendously beneficial to the host country and its local communities. Tourism generated income can be used on a national and local level to better education, improve infrastructure, to fund conservation efforts, and to promote more responsible tourism.

Madhya Pradesh Gateway To History

Bhimetka Rock Art

Bhimbetka

The heart of Incredible India is Madhya Pradesh, gateway to ancient civilizations, a dignified fusion of the old and the new. A pamiset of tribal culture and heritage, flourishing in verdant forests Madhya Pradesh offers you adventure and serenity.

Its capital, Bhopal, with its broad tree-lined roads, fashionable markets and cultural centres and museums, radiates from two medieval lakes and the old city’s bustling crowds, winding alleys and to Asia’s largest mosque, the Taj-ul-Masajid.

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

For good reason, Madhya Pradesh was the heart of Indian civilization: skeletal remains suggest Homo-erectus roamed the Narmada Valley 500,000 years ago.

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 Islamnagar, built by Pushtan conquer  Dost Mohammad Khan lay 11 kilometres from Bhopal.  Gwalior showcases masterpieces of Indian architecture.