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Lakshadweep lagoon faces threat from tourism project

Date: 15 March 2020 Tags: Biodiversity


In a petition this January, 114 scientists from more than 30 universities and research institutes urged the Lakshadweep administration to reconsider a tourism project, fearing the possible ecological impact it could have on the islands’ sensitive lagoons and beaches.



The multi-crore project has been proposed by NITI Aayog and the Ministry of Home Affairs. It involves the construction of beach and water villas offering 370 rooms.



  • The waters of Lakshadweep are also home to a variety of threatened and endangered marine life, including green turtles, sea cucumbers, giant clams and corals.

  • In the 36-island archipelago of the Lakshadweep, this proposal has been earmarked for the islands of Kadmat, Minicoy and Suheli.

  • With an initial investment of ?266 crore (and additional investments of up to ?788 crore expected from the private sector), the project will be implemented by Lakshadweep’s Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports (SPORTS).

  • The NITI Aayog report repeatedly stresses that the projects are ‘technically feasible, economically profitable and socially acceptable’.

  • The ‘up-front’ clearances (both environmental and Coastal Regulation Zone) recommended for the project are a ‘unique move aimed at creating much-needed conducive environment for private entrepreneurs to invest’.

  • The vision appears straightforward and grand: create job opportunities for locals, and world-class, ‘Maldives-like’, carbon-neutral tourism facilities that will also give India its first-ever water villas.

  • But the ecological impact of such a project on the lagoons and coral reefs is likely to be far more complex and damaging than what is being acknowledged.

  • The shallow lagoons are protected from the open sea by an outer coral reef which reduces the impact of wave action, preventing beach erosion and protecting the islands’ limited freshwater supply.

  • The healthy sea grass meadows in lagoons, crucial nurseries for many reef fish, also have high soil-binding capacities. Lagoonal sea grasses help stabilise beaches and prevent beach erosion.

  • The reefs have witnessed a startling shift in coral species, as they tried to adapt to climate change. Coral species such as the delicate, finger-like Acropora gave way to more temperature-tolerant ones such as the large, boulder-like Porites.

  • Waste disposal will affect water quality and microplastics are also a concern. Studies show how inshore corals can confuse microplastics for food and these microscopic pieces then get embedded in coral structures, impacting their health.

  • Islanders fish in the lagoons for their daily consumption. Lagoon fish are also the backbone of Lakshadweep’s famous sustainable and indigenous tuna fishery industry.

  • And the beaches are heavily used: catch is processed and sundried on these sands. With tourism, and the spatial restrictions it could bring, locals fear that they will not be able to use the beaches or lagoons for their traditional livelihoods.

  • Locals fear that the floating solar panels could restrict their access to the lagoon and affect the fishing.

  • They will also get in the way of the green turtles that graze on the sea grass. Then, the artificial shading that they cast on the lagoon floor would be ‘disastrous’ for sea grass meadows and reefs.

  • The officials say that the project will not go ahead without detailed environmental studies and only after following all due processes and taking all approvals, further actions are carried out.


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