Where to draw the line?
Udupi (Malpe): The waves break gently onto a golden strip of sand. The warm breeze carries the hypnotic sound of the ocean. Beaches like these, that dot the district coastline, are known to attract tourists from all over.
That is ostensibly why the district tourism department set up a six-foot statue of Mahatma Gandhi relaxing on a rock at Malpe beach August last. While the statue adds character to the beach, it stands within a restricted 200 metre area from the highest point (high tide line), where the water reaches the shore.
Despite the statue falling under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) marked by the Environment Ministry, no action has been taken to correct the illegal construction.
Similarly, other constructions have been flouting the CRZ rules as they tend to lurk at the very boundaries of the zones, sometimes crossing the line. In 2003, CRZ Udupi had issued a notice to Paradise Isle Beach Resort after reports in the local media that the northern part of the resort on Malpe Beach might be violating CRZ norms.
The file was then forwarded to the state government and to date the case is ‘under consideration’.
“The coastline has been made private in some areas where five-star hotels want to set up resorts right at the sea shore. By doing so, they not only obstruct the view of the coastline but also let out waste into the water. This isn’t right considering the vast ecology we have at the coasts and in the oceans. Some structures may even affect the soil. If their foundations are too deep, sand erosion will take place. Maybe not immediately, but over a period of time this will result in the degradation of the coastline. The CRZ is set up to stop all this from happening,” said Dr. Ashok Kundapur, an environmentalist from Udupi.
The CRZ aims to protect the coastline and to ensure livelihood security to the fishing communities and other local communities living in the coastal areas. It promotes sustainable development by taking into account the dangers of natural hazards and the potential rise in sea levels due to global warming.
As it turns out, both the CRZ and Tourism Departments of Udupi are headed by Deputy Commissioner Dr. M. T. Reju. He was not available to comment on this dichotomy between tourism and environment. However, M R Prakash, Assistant Director of the District Tourism Department said, “Imagine them (the CRZ and the tourism department) as two hands of the Karnataka government. The two hands should coordinate to ensure proper functioning.” His department has requested the government to relax Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms when it comes to coastal tourism.
While tourism adds to the state treasury, to what extent can it be stretched? Where should we draw the line?
Sub-edited by: Garima Goel