Our work to develop a Code of Practice for houseboats in Alleppey, India continues to progress well. This is an important project, which promises to bring tangible benefits to the communities and environments of the backwaters. If you possibly can, please help us to continue this work by making a donation. We are entirely funded from donations made by our Members and supporters.
When I visited Kerala in April I was heartened by the enthusiasm shown for the initiative amongst all the stakeholders, including government departments and many of the houseboat operators. This has continued, with an understanding having recently been signed regarding the setting up of an Implementation and Monitoring Committee. It is proposed that it comprises a total of 16 representatives of stakeholder groups, including the houseboat owners themselves; government departments – including the Tourism Department, the Pollution Board of Control and Alleppey Municipality; NGOs representing fishing and farming communities; and the project partners: Tourism Concern and the Environmental Collaborative. The full list will be published later this month, when it has been finalised.
Currently we are consulting with stakeholders in order to define clear terms of reference for the committee – vital for keeping the project on track. This includes outlining the next steps and realistic timings for their completion. The role of the committee is to co-ordinate the consultative process, to collate the feedback and thoughts that emerge, to start to outline the code, and to consider what support might be required (training, facilities etc) and who might help with that provision. We hope to have a draft of the Code prepared in about two months time, with a view to being able to launch it in time for the next tourism season in the autumn.
Ideally the Kerala government would like ALL boats to sign up to the Code. This shows fantastic support for our work and represents a real commitment to change. However, we feel that the Code should represent a continual improvement process and believe that it is vital for boats to demonstrate genuine compliance with its principles. Realistically, relatively few boats will be able to do that in the short term. Our proposal is hence that boats initially enter the process voluntarily and are offered help – including one-to-one training – in return. We are also hoping that we may be able to have one or two ‘model’ boats, who demonstrate exemplary practices. Ongoing support and monitoring will also be required and it is likely that the Code will continue to evolve and standards to improve. We have further agreed with the Kerala government that those adopting the Code will also be promoted as ‘ethical operators’, including here in the UK.
In the UK the initiative is supported by the Association of Independent Tour Operators AITO), by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) and by the Travel Foundation as well as by a number of individual Tour Operators who take guests to Kerala. Many of the houseboat operators these organisations use are already contributing to our work in India.