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One of the underlying principles of responsible travel is Carbon offsetting is an attempt to counter-balance the effect
to take fewer overseas trips by plane. But make your stay of your carbon emissions. A carbon offset negates the release
longer. By taking fewer trips for longer periods you are of carbon dioxide by avoiding the release of, or removing
responsible for lesser pollution. When a plane takes off and from the atmosphere the same amount of carbon dioxide.
lands, it emits much carbon. A flight does more damage to Now you can calculate the amount of carbon emission being
the environment than any other aspect of your travel. generated by your air travel and purchase carbon credits to
offset it. Your carbon credits fund various renewable energy
If you are concerned about climate change, don’t be part projects, such as wind farms and reforestation.
of the problem. Offset your carbon emissions by using a
carbon calculator. You can offset your carbon dioxide
emissions through organizations like, Carbon Clear,
C-Change Trust, Climate Care, Future Forests, Sustainable Philip Mathew is the chief editor of Asia Pacific Ecumenical News.
He was formerly Communications Secretary at the Christian
Travel International, Tree Flights or the World Land Trust. Conference of Asia (CCA) and was associated with The People’s
Reporter.

Deep Waters – the Untold Story of Tourism


and Dams in India
By Equitable Tourism Options (EQUATIONS)

Large dams are no longer ‘just’ electricity-generating projects; they have become
holiday destinations. Tourists stay oblivious to the fact that entire villages were
sacrificed and forced out in order to construct the idyllic and peaceful waterfront
resorts.

T
ourism relies on and is increasingly being located in Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that after people are
natural areas that are ecologically fragile. Dam sites displaced, tourism is developed on the watery graves of
have always been popular destinations for tourists in people’s homes and lands. What were once thriving villages
India – providing an often idyllic natural setting. and hamlets, where people had lived for centuries and
contributed to the regeneration of forests and its biodiversity
Dams are a manifestation of a kind of development which are now reduced to endless lakes. The pleasure-seeking
denies some people access to justice (largely in rural and tourist is often oblivious to the tragedy that rests beneath
poor parts of cities) while favoring the growth of others and to what may have transpired before a dam was built;
(largely the urban middle class and elite). People in before a community was displaced.
indigenous and rural areas have been repeatedly asked to
sacrifice for the ‘greater common good’; a notion first used Is tourism as harmless as it seems? What are the ethics and
by the State soon after independence, calling upon people values being communicated by the institutions of the State
to contribute to the nation-building process. However, 63 when they promote tourism at dam sites?
years after independence, the State continues to make the
same demands on its people.

Vol.20, No.4, December 2010 CONTOURS


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The government is planning to start underwater tourism at the dam site


- to show tourists the submerged town, the lost homes of the people and
the desolate streets.

which tend to deplete ground water. This in turn puts at risk


EQUATIONS
livelihoods of local communities who depend on the natural
resources for sustenance. As tourism grows, competition for
access to natural resources between the tourism industry and
the local community increases. As the industry is bigger and
more powerful it is usually vulnerable local communities
that bear the ‘costs’ of such ‘development’.

Corporate tourism becomes public


interest

Injustice continues to haunt the Narmada River Valley. With


each passing year, as the Sardar Sarovar Dam inches towards
its proposed height, pristine forests, villages, people and
their croplands are submerged. While the displaced people
still await rehabilitation and compensation, ecotourism
projects are triggering displacements in Kevadia at the
Sardar Sarovar Dam site. For the people of Kevadia, who
have foughtght the dam for so many decades there is a new
foe to contend with – tourism.

In 1961, the Government of Gujarat acquired 650ha of land


from 950 families of the six villages of Kevadia, Waghodia,
Dam constructions impact fragile ecosystems Kothi, Limdi, Navagam and Gora, under ‘public purpose’.
Of this 570ha remain unused. Sardar Sarovar Narmada
The impacts on these fragile ecosystems are two-fold – Nigam Limited (SSNNL) and the newly constituted Kevadia
first with the construction of the dams and secondly with Area development Authority (KADA), is now proposing a
the development of tourism. With the construction of the tourism project on the adivasi land in an attempt to ‘present
dam, both in the catchment and the command area the the dam site in its pristine and natural glory which will
impacts are numerous - loss of forest cover, loss of common captivate the tourist and hold them in awe of the benefits
property resources, loss of cultivation on the floodplains provided by the project’.
and the problems of displacement and resettlement. For the
community, it is not just about moving homes to another Towards this SSNNL has proposed to undertake massive
place. For them it is about being uprooted from a way of tourism development – the plans included food-court, low-
life which includes their social and cultural traditions, from cost accommodation, camping, souvenir and vendor stalls,
their lands, waters and forests. cottages, a water-park, golf course, convention centre and
adventure sports activities.
Tourism gains backdoor entry into these pristine
environments. However tourism development is known Tourism slowly and surely seems to be moving into
to have negative environmental impacts of pollution, Kevadia and surrounding areas. While tourism is being
waste generation, discharge of untreated waste into water privileged, the voice of struggles of local community is
bodies, large energy and water consumption requirements being suppressed. Protests by local communities in these

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villages are directed not only against the State government


Photo: EQUATIONS
auctioning and leasing out the land on which they depend
for their livelihood to activities like tourism. They also
protest against the negation of their decision-making rights
through the constitutionally approved process of local
self governance that has been handed over to Kevadia
Area Development Authority (KADA) by the Gujarat
Government. Soon there will be no Kevadia, Limdi or Gora.
Only view points 1, 2 or 3, ponds 2, 3 or 4, a golf course, a
water park and the dam.

Submerging future
Uttarakhand – a state famous for its natural beauty,
snowcapped mountains, valleys, pristine rivers, is also
where innumerable dams are being constructed. With the Entire villages are sacrificed to clear the way for construction
damming of a river – a river no longer remains a river. The of dams.
once-free flowing waters now pass through tunnels. The
construction of the dams have also resulted in building sports. A master plan for development of the region was
roads, barrages and colonies across the state – all at the cost commissioned. The plan suggests that investments to the
of the environment and the lives and livelihoods of local tune of US$23.8 million could be brought in.
communities dependent on them.
The latest and the most ironic situation is that the government
The Uttarakhand Vision Document positions the state is planning to start underwater tourism at the dam site - to
as the most competitive supplier to the Northern Grid by show tourists the submerged town, the lost homes of the
harnessing at least 50% of the state’s hydroelectric potential people and the desolate streets.
by 2012. The push for hydroelectricity has resulted in the
construction of dams on almost all rivers including the In both cases of the Sardar Sarovar Dam and the Tehri dam,
Bhagirathi. On the Bhagirathi, four projects have been there have been vibrant struggles by the local communities
commissioned, four more are under construction and nine resisting the construction of these dams in the context
more are proposed. of the development paradigm that is being promoted.
The construction of the dam and the resulting tourism
The once bustling town of Tehri in the Uttarkashi district of development is testimony to the State’s insensitivity to its
Uttarakhand is today under water. The construction of Tehri people who once lived in these regions, the majority of
Dam resulted in the complete submergence of the entire whom are now living in poverty in what for them are ‘alien
Tehri town along with 40 villages and partially submerged lands’.
72 villages; displacing nearly 100,000 people. The main
reservoir, formed as a result of the dam, comprises an area Kevadia, Terhi and many more such places dotted across
of nearly 42km2. the map of India, each have their own story to tell. They are
all promoted as desirable ‘must see’ places, but they are all
For the State, the construction of dams is not only about also proof of tourism’s ability to create or exacerbate serious
producing more electricity; it is also about drawing more conflict. So is there no hope? Tourism can contribute but for
tourists to the dam sites. On the one hand, the number this to be possible one must engage with the reality, the
of tourists visiting the state has reduced because in the history, and the aspirations of those in the places visited.
process of constructing the dams the natural beauty and
wealth of the state has also been destroyed. This has hugely
impacted the local economy in many places, especially in
the large number of locals whose livelihood is dependent
on tourism. Equitable Tourism Options (EQUATIONS) is a research, campaign
and advocacy organisation studying the social, cultural, economic
and environmental impact of tourism on local communities (www.
However, the State tourism board has plans for the equitabletourism.org).
development of Tehri dam as a water-front resort for water

Vol.20, No.4, December 2010 CONTOURS