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Indian coastal tourism development displaces local communities and brings few advantages

Posted: Aug 1, 2012

Bekal - displaced children

A recent report states that the Bekal development has forced hundreds of people to give up their land, their hereditary possessions, culture and traditional occupations. These children are living in a 'temporary' home provided by the developers.

A recent report highlighted in the Hundu newspaper has concluded that the Bekal resort in Kerala has bought no developmental benefits to local people and has actually forced hundreds of people to give up their land, their hereditary possessions, culture and traditional occupations.

Bekal, in the southern Indian state of Kerala, became India’s first Special Tourism Area in the 1990s. The Bekal Resorts Development Corporation Ltd (BRDC), a government agency formed to facilitate the development, has since acquired 250 acres of land for six resorts. Whilst the BRDC claims to be environmentally sensitive and socially responsible, the reality has seen lack of transparency and consultation with communities, violations of coastal regulations, and aggressive land acquisitions.

Many local people claim to have been threatened with eviction if they refused to sell their land, often with little notice. This includes very poor fisher families who were forced into selling for as little as 25 per cent of the market rate. Women were allegedly threatened whilst their husbands were at sea. More than a year after their forced displacement, promises to rehabilitate them are unfulfilled.

Land for building new homes remains flooded, the rental accommodation provided is of poor quality, and rents BRDC said it would pay are in arrears. The right to a livelihood has been undermined as the distance to the sea makes fishing unviable, while promised jobs at the resorts have not materialised. The right to water and sanitation have also been undermined, as the communities must travel 1.5 kilometres to access safe drinking water. The houses are subject to flooding during heavy rains, exacerbating already poor sanitary conditions and undermining the right to health.

Various national laws have allegedly been violated by the BRDC and developers, including the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification, the Wetland Conservation Act and the Environment Protection Act. The developers have reportedly destroyed mangroves, reclaimed wetlands, diverted rivers and appropriated agricultural land in the name of 'development'.

>> Read more from the Hindu online

>> Displacement in Bekal

>> Bekal: 50,000 jobs promised, 500 created

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