TBY: What happened in the village of Arattupuzha during and after Tsunami?
|Arattupuzha Coast is under constant attack of tidal waves, submerging the roads, and dwellings. The sea wall put by the government is not only ineffective but also aggravating the situation
MN:The Tsunami, which struck Arattupuzha (Alappuzha District, Kerala, India) on the 26th of December 2004, resulted in loss of life of about 25 persons, shelter and livelihood of hundreds of people. A Project entitled “Local Initiatives in Mitigating the Environmental and Livelihood Problems of a Tsunami affected Panchayath in Alappuzha District, Kerala, India”, was initiated during April 2006 by SEUF with financial and technical assistance from AREED, France, in order to support a community managed sustainable programme for mitigating the environmental and livelihood problems of Arattupuzha Panchayat, caused by the Tsunami of December 2004. This project was named as Punarjani, which, in Sanskrit means, revival/restoration.
Based on the lessons learned from and recommendations of a Preparatory Phase (April – December 2006), a Project Implementation Plan (PIP), for the Second Phase was approved and the implementation started in January 2007 and by December 2007, just completed one year. The initial results and lessons learned are so exciting and all the stakeholders agreed that this programme should continue with slightly changed focus. Discussions on the scope and need for preparing long term plan for mitigating the environmental and livelihood problems of critical coastal region is going on amongst stake holders. Meanwhile this Action Plan for the Second Year (2008) is being developed to assist in implementing the project in 2008.
TBY: How did you get involved in this project?
NM: A French man named Alexander Noel was physically present at the Amruthanandamayi Institute during the Tsunami and participated in relief work. After he returned to France he contacted few French NGOs and Government institutions to generate funds and support a long-term rehabilitation Programme in Arattupuzha. He identified AREED, in France who was willing to fund the Project.
|Drinking water is a big problem in many locations, although pipes are laid every where (thanks to the post tsunami relief). These pipe systems perform very poorly and is totally unreliable. Rain water harvesting has proven to be very helpful. This photo shows the rain water harvesting prohvided under the project in a highschool. The scheme is maintained by the Parent Teachers Association.
I am basically a civil engineer with specialization in community managed natural resource management and long working experience in water management. Mr. Alexander Noel contacted me to represent them in India and identify one implementing NGO to develop and implement the project. I accepted the position of Senior Technical Adviser to the Project. I identified Socio Economic Unit Foundation (SEUF), a leading NGO, in Kerala and jointly prepared a Project.
TBY: Can you tell us more about AREED, the organization you are working with?
NM: AREED, Association Réseau Expert Environment Development, is a French NGO, working on sustainable development projects in several countries including India, mainly on environment protection and economical development such as responsible tourism.
You can visit the website, http://www.areed-nancy.org for more details.
TBY: What have you been doing in this area so far?
NM: We have focussed on proven and effective activities pertaining to Water Supply, Water Resource Management, Environmental Protection, Environmental Sanitation/Hygiene and Livelihood aspects, conducted an action research in grey areas such as detailed mapping, data collection and studies on oxygenisation of contaminated water bodies, toilet design for water logged area etc. were taken up on a pilot area basis and given priority is however given to Tsunami affected (directly or indirectly) wards, area and people. We have used local technologies, material and skill through the implementation.
TBY: How do you plan to carry the project forward?
NM: During this year, the focus will be on Environmental Protection and Livelihood aspects. These facilities will be created using local technologies, material and skills and will be eventually owned by the community. Inland fishery with an aim of providing income and nutritional requirements of the local community on one hand and maintaining the water bodies in healthy condition on the other will be an important activity. Revival of coir industry in the small-scale sector using environmentally sound, efficient and profitable technologies will be taken up as Pilot Project. A project to experiment on various, appropriate, cost effective technologies for coast protection shall be taken up on a pilot basis. Scope of introducing community managed sustainable and ecologically sound tourism shall be explored as an avenue of livelihood to the local community. Since the Panchayath is now saturated with Piped Water Supply Systems (thanks to the post Tsunami Water Supply Programmes), water Supply will receive lower priority.
Special focus will be laid on massive awareness building. Capacity building activities for community facilitators to prepare the community to initiate long term plans will continue. Skill training shall also continue to get same attention.
Yet another new avenue that is potentially emerging in the project area is Sustainable Tourism. Following reasons can be attributed for this new potential:
- With the revival of traditional water bodies, environment, livelihood systems and cultural activities, the area attracts tourists
- Community has ready market for their products and tourism that can contribute substantially to their income
- This will be an excellent incentive for the community to preserve their environments, cultures and traditions, for sustainable living
- Government and international agencies have already put sustainable tourism as an important agenda for Tsunami areas.
As already mentioned all the activities will be taken up in an integrated manner in the pilot area. However, after saturating the pilot area, depending up on the demand and fund availability, few activities may also be taken up outside the pilot area.
TBY: You mentioned the tourism related project coming up in this area. What is this all about? Who is doing this?
|Traditionally, this area had many water sources which were owned and maintained by the community. Over the period of time these were neglected and disused. Under the project, these water sources were revived, and maintained by the community. The photograph shows a traditional pond revived and maintained by the community (about 20 families) for domestic purposes.
NM:Now we hear about the impending ambitious project of special Tsunami Package in this area in which tourism is an important component.
If this is true, it will be a big blow to all the progress made by the community in this village. On enquiry, a senior official in the District, told us that private investment is invited to initiate resorts, house boats in Kayamkulam estuary water sport events such as speed boats, water skiing, meddling around with the fishermen's life support systems. We were shocked to learn that the Chinese Nets will be removed to facilitate cruise of houseboats, transportation of Naphtha for NTPC etc. It was also proposed to construct ugly concrete buildings, roads, shopping arcades, etc. to improve the infrastructural facilities.
It is also reported that in the name of coastal protection (again for tourism), more sea walls, submerged reefs etc. are going to come.
TBY: Why are you concerned about this? What dangers do you foresee in this project?
NM:In the past couple of years, we have had spectacular results in which community started cleaning and reviving their natural water bodies, and started nurturing sustainable life systems. Our plans for 2008 are to revive their traditional skills (Coir Products, Fishing) and spreading the successful model throughout the Panchayath.
We also had some ideas of introducing "community managed participatory sustainable tourism"; meaning community would start reviving their traditional (empirically proven to be beneficial to the environment) life and natural systems. They will also strengthen the traditional governance systems based on trusteeship (neither private entrepreneurship nor State entrepreneurship). The traditional cultures, ethos will also be revived. Such a revival is expected to attract tourists who are in pursuit of lifestyles, traditions, and cultures. This will also give additional income to the community, and more than anything else, will prompt the community to conserve their environment, culture and traditions.
My concern is because some of the activities of the proposed special Tsunami Package will adversely affect the sustainable development programmes initiated by the community. Punarjani in the following ways:
- The coastal protection measures do not take the interest of the fisher men dwelling near the coast. Fishermen community has serious reservations against the most unscientifically designed and constructed coast protection measures such as sea walls, groins etc. because they have aggravated the coastal erosion. There is no body to listen to their voice. Instead under Punarjani, a beach regeneration technique using vegetative measures is proposed with active community participation
- The buildings and houses proposed for Tsunami victims will look very ugly since they are the conventional concrete buildings.
- Introduction of speedboats, large number of houseboats etc. will require removal of the Chinese nets. Besides, these will also reduce the fish population and fish breeding seriously affecting the livelihood of fishermen.
To my mind all these are “Irresponsible Development” and should not be encouraged.
TBY: Thank you
NM Namboodiri can be reached on email here