Sample letter to Chief Minister of Kerala

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					Shri. V. S. Achuthanandan
Honourable Chief Minister of Kerala
Room No. 141, Third Floor, North Block
Government Secretariat
Thiruvananthapuram 695001


Dear Honourable Minister,

Re: Diversion of tsunami rehabilitation funds for tourism

I am writing as a concerned tourist in relation to the Government of Kerala’s diversion
of tsunami rehabilitation funds for the development of tourism, at the apparent expense
of coastal communities that are still struggling to recover from this unprecedented
natural disaster.

I understand that India’s Central Planning Commission Tsunami Rehabilitation
Programme (TRP) guidelines clearly state that TRP funds must only be used for the
reconstruction of damaged tourism infrastructure. A Government of India
commissioned study of the social and economic impacts of the tsunami, conducted
jointly by the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the United Nations, made
no mention of Kerala’s tourism infrastructure being damaged or in need of repair.
These findings are reinforced by the media releases issued by Kerala’s tourism
department, Kerala Tourism, just days after the tsunami, which declared Kerala as a
‘safe option’ for tourists and that its beaches were ‘open for business’.

By using TRP funds for tourism developments, Kerala Tourism appears to be acting in
flagrant violation of central government guidelines. Furthermore, I understand that
many of the projects will directly conflict with the needs and interests of tsunami-
affected communities, placing their land, lives and livelihoods under renewed threat.
For example, it is anticipated that the artificial reef planned for the resort town of
Kovalam - which the tourism department hopes will transform it into a premier
international surfing destination - will put 500 fishermen out of work and see fish
breeding grounds used for sport fishing for tourists. There is also a real possibility that
waves deflected off the reef will cause increased erosion and infrastructural damage to
neighbouring fishing communities.

The above casts doubt on Kerala Tourism’s claims that the 20 sanctioned projects will
provide protection from sea erosion, as does consideration of some of the items to be
funded, which includes lampposts, flowerpots, plumbing, electricity, kiosks, walkways,
stone pergolas and even an amphitheatre. Furthermore, I understand that in some
cases, effective natural coastal defences, such trees and sand dunes, will actually be
removed under the tourism department projects, causing a clash with coastal
protection measures being implemented by other government administrations,
including the forestry department. In light of the above, I respectfully urge the
Government of Kerala to:

   -     Adhere to TRP guidelines by only using tsunami rehabilitation funds for the
         reconstruction of tsunami-damaged areas and to rebuild and protect the lives
         and livelihoods of tsunami-affected communities.
   -   Ensure transparency in the reconstruction process by implementing a system
       that will allow members of the public to track how tsunami reconstruction
       money is being used.

Regrettably, and contrary to the stated objectives of Kerala’s Tsunami Rehabilitation
Project, I also understand that an opportunity to develop alternative livelihood
opportunities through tourism for coastal communities still struggling to recover from
the tsunami is being missed. Given the dwindling fish stocks and continued pressure
on communities to sell up and move inland to make way for tourism and other
developments, arguably the need to diversify livelihood opportunities is more pressing
than ever. I therefore urge your government to:

   -   Consult with local people to ascertain what their development needs are,
       including in relation to current and future tourism developments.
   -   Ensure that these consultations are participatory and involve marginalised
       sectors of society, including fishing communities and women.
   -   Ensure that the planning and consultation process is transparent and
       addresses local concerns, as identified by coastal communities, in a
       meaningful way.
   -   Explore opportunities for tsunami-affected communities to benefit from tourism
       beyond employment in menial, low paid roles.

Lastly, it is my understanding that all the tourism projects submitted for funding under
the TRP have been classified by Kerala Tourism as ‘Category C’ projects. As you will
be aware, this category is meant for projects that are not anticipated to have a major
impact on the environment, so only require the completion of a basic environmental
screening form. Category C projects are not subject to an environmental assessment.
However, given the number and scope of the tourism projects, as well as the serious
concerns expressed by local people of their potential negative environmental impacts
in terms of deflected and/or heightened sea erosion, I urge the Government of Kerala

   -   Initiate a detailed review of each project by an independent, competent
       authority and, where necessary, resubmit them under either Category A or B,
       where they will be subjected to either a limited or full environmental
       assessment and forwarded to the respective Coastal Management Zone
       authority and Ministry of Environment and Forests for clearance.
   -   Integrate tourism planning with other state departments where necessary,
       particularly in relation to coastal and environmental protection measures.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter and l look forward to hearing your
response to the concerns raised in this letter at you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

(Your name)