Shell collectors near Alleppey are still waiting to reap benefits promised by a tourism developer to whom they sold their land.
Shell collectors from Vembanad lake, in Alleppey's backwaters, were asked to sell their land in 2001 to make room for a new resort. The buyer was a tourism developer who promised to create jobs for members of the community. Each family received on average Rs. 40,000 for the whole of their property (around €580, £480, or US$740.) They found a place to relocate about 600 metres from their original homes.
Whilst a December 2011 visit by campaigning groups showed that the current homes are decent and the shell collectors' standard of living is acceptible they do not have access to the shore 600 metres away, as a big gate prevents access to the old village. Instead, they have to haul the shells from the lakeshore to their village via a very polluted canal, and cook and dry the petrol-encrusted catches in smaller, less convenient facilities. However, even this is not their main complaint.
The main problem is that the original land has not been used to develop tourism as promised, and is now turning into a jungle. The shell collectors are watching their old homes, which they are still attached to, rot away. The jobs that were promised have not been created and some community members who were counting on them have had to leave the area to find work elsewhere. The collectors and their families feel that their land is wasted and that the sacrifices they still have to make are pointless.
Local campaigning organisations are using the shell collectors' story to inform other communities of the potential outcomes of selling land to tourism developers. This awareness raising effort aims to make sure that more vulnerable or less educated community members can discuss the terms of future land purchase in a more equitable way.
- Photo of the gate preventing the shell collectors from accessing their old village
- Photos of shell collectors discussing with Kabani's staff
(Please note: Tourism Concern, Kabani or our partners are not responsible for the content of unverified reports.)