How is the infrastructure development of Goa

Coastal protection and tourism in India

With climate change and increasing natural disasters, coastal protection has become a hot topic in India. A lot of money is now being pumped into coastal protection. This leads to corruption and it is easy to set the wrong priorities. Coastal protection has become good business for various stakeholders. In the name of conservation, priority is given to the economy, although it is clearly quite paradoxical to "protect" unsustainable tourism, which is itself exacerbating coastal erosion by destroying natural barriers such as sand dunes and mangroves.

India has a coastline of 7,525 km, most of which is more or less affected by erosion. There are serious erosion problems on around 1,500 km (26 percent) of the mainland coast. Infrastructure projects such as boat docks, ports, major roads, dredged navigation channels and the destruction of coastal vegetation all contribute to increasing the vulnerability of people living on the coast, who are dependent on the resources available there. The effects of climate change and rising sea levels pose a serious threat to coastal regions. Sea levels on the Indian coast rise by around 1.3 millimeters per year.

The 2004 tsunami and massive hurricanes raised awareness of coastal protection among policy makers. The government is allocating large sums of money to expensive technology and borrowing funds to prevent coastal erosion. Construction companies and consultants take advantage of this situation. Many of the recommended technologies and measures are experimental only and have not yet been proven to work.

There are already many coastal protection projects in India, including a World Bank co-financed project on "Integrated Management of Coastal Zones" in Gujarat, West Bengal and Orissa. The loan is $ 90 million. An Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded urban sector investment project in Northern Karnataka is valued at $ 270 million. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the UK Department of Development (DFID) also support coastal protection and management initiatives in India.

The projects cause a controlled disruption of natural processes through expensive artificial structures such as beach walls that let the waves ricochet off or groynes (unyielding wall or dam-like structures that are intended to interrupt the flow and reduce sediment movement). Such constructions can have unintended environmental consequences, e.g. renewed erosion and altered sediment and sand deposition patterns, which damage the immediate human and natural environment or affect more distant coastal stretches and habitats.

Coastal tourism and nature conservation - a new alliance

Tourist destinations are given top priority in coastal protection, as coastal and beach tourism is an important segment in the global tourism scenario. Coastal leisure activities have increased over the past decade and play a prominent role in tourism.

Against the background of climate change, a new alliance has developed between the tourism sector and coastal protection. Coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to climate-related changes such as rising sea levels and increasingly frequent, stronger storms. All of these changes can have a major impact on destination decisions by tourists and ultimately on tourist flows. "In contrast to natural disasters or terrorist attacks, there are not only short-term effects that can quickly be forgotten again. Rather, climate change will permanently change the attractiveness of some holiday areas and force them to take steps to adapt over the next few decades," According to a study by Deutsche Bank from 2008, which deals with the winners and losers in the changing global tourism scenario.

Tourism and Coastal Erosion

Tourism is one of the contributors to the destruction of what a coast naturally protects. A study of the Indian state of Goa shows that there no longer any coastline has the rich sand dune vegetation that is typical of intact beaches. Compared to non-touristic places or places that are still being developed, the dune vegetation in tourist places has decreased. Tourism affects the natural ecosystems on the beaches because it destroys sandy areas and dune vegetation and it appropriates land. The government does nothing to regulate these destructive activities, and sometimes even supports them.

The ADB-supported "Sustainable Coastal Protection and Management Investment Program" in Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka is one of the projects of great concern. According to this, new technologies for coastal protection should not only prevent erosion, but also improve the income opportunities for the communities in the affected areas. However, experience shows that the opposite is true.

The artificial reefs made from geotextile sacks proposed in this project are not an effective technology for erosion control. They have failed in many places, such as the Dorset coast in the UK and Kovalam in Kerala, South India, and they have not provided the results that we were looking for. Current photos from Kovalam show that this year's monsoon has, as usual, led to erosion and has also damaged the paved beach path. The multi-purpose reef, which is said to be used for coastal protection, fishing and tourism, has become ironic. Coastal fishermen report that they are more likely to pull geotextile parts of the gradually dissolving reef out of the water in their nets than the larger quantities of fish they were promised.

According to the targets formulated for the project in Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, the project should increase the number of companies on the respective beaches by 15 percent within five years of completion. The project aims to reduce poverty among the population along the coast of the respective districts by ten percent by 2018.

However, experience shows that local communities, especially the poor and marginalized, tend to receive only a drop of the wealth that tourism brings. At the same time, they pay a high price: They are pushed off the beach, lose access to the sea and can no longer carry out their traditional occupations. The ADB project talks about a new organization for coastal management, which is supposed to control access to the beach and the sea with the participation of business. This will certainly lead to violations of communities' rights to their resources and promote the privatization of public goods.

The role of international financial institutions

International financial institutions like the World Bank and the ADB play a crucial role in lending for unsustainable tourism in the developing world. These projects require vast amounts of taxpayers' money and are of very little use. Such projects are supported in the name of adapting to climate change, but at the same time it encourages activities that increase carbon dioxide emissions and exacerbate coastal erosion. Rapid urbanization and infrastructure development along the coast is one of the main reasons for coastal erosion. Disaster risk reduction measures must first and foremost begin with containing these rampant developments along the coast.

Sumesh Mangalassery is the director of Kabani - the other direction, an initiative from Kerala (India) that works for more sustainable tourism development. This article is based on the study "India: Borrowing False Solutions - A Critique of Asian Development Bank's Sustainable Coastal Protection and Management Investment Program", published by Kabani and the NGO Forum on ADB based in Manila, Philippines.

Translation from English: Christina Kamp

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