Kerala is one of the states of Southern India – South West more precisely. Pearl of India, Kerala is famous for being peaceful as well as for its quality of life. This state is also known for an advanced economic development and last but not least, an important education rate for men and women – which is far from being neglictable in India.
From an historic point of view, Kerala played an important role in the world we see today. We mean, in the last centuries, kerala ports have been conquered by many countries. Successively, Portuguese, Dutch, French and British took over the cities and sent all over the world quantity of spices, rice and other treasures of India. If we are now in a process of globalization all over the world, Kerala had a key role at one moment of the history…
Finally, when we hear about Kerala, it is difficult to not think about backwaters. What a wonder of the nature looking at these natural canals where small canoes go slowly between coconuts and rice paddies under a beautiful blue and sunny sky! This beauty has not stopped to attract local and international tourists. Houseboats (built with natural material) exploded with many different circuits all over the backwater.
But who says excessive means downward spiral. Today, despite its immensity, backwaters count more than 2400 houseboats. During the high season, indian families almost fight to get one and prices get crazy. Happy to surf on the easy wave, professional of tourism around Alleppey make outrageous margin. Outrageous is undoubtedly the word as their management is far away of being responsible. Water is polluted. Inhabitants do not know anymore what to do with all the waste cumulating on the banks. What sadness!!
A breeze of hope!
Few years ago, in a process of developing tourism in a sustainable way, both government and ministry of tourism started various projects. One of them led us to Mr Rupesh Kumar; a field project coordinator in responsible tourism in Kerala.
Since 2002, in the region of Kumarakom, some studies had been launched in order to measure the impact of tourism on the environment and on local population. In general, results were bad. Local people started to be angry and nature was already suffering. Indeed, in that period, in all resorts, none of them were sourcing their products from Kerala farmers. All products came from states around. How can you expect resilience to tourism in such condition, when local do not benefit at all especially economically?
Rupesh and his teams started to work on some economic models which would place local populations in the center of the touristic offer. Well, if the tourism develops, it has to be with everybody! Today, 15 years later, Kumarakom became a world reference for responsible tourism. More than 1600 family are directly or indirectly in touch with professional of tourism. Environment is also taken into account and biodiversity is not threatened as much as it was tending to.
Responsible tourism Kerala, after strong efforts and an infinite passion, got success. In Kumarakom, Wayanad, Bekal, Kovalam and Thekkady, projects got alive and had been sustained. Ministry of tourism is convinced and financially supports Rupesh and his teams. In a close future, 7 other villages will be under a responsible tourism model. Amazing!!
Mr Rupesh also succeeded in putting sustainable tourism as a standard of economic development in the region. As a key opinion leader, he is managing a certification of houseboats especially regarding their impact on the environment. We deeply hope that it will save the backwaters and let this wonder of the nature available for the next generations.
We hope to see all these beautiful energies keeping forward, raising awareness for a responsible and sustainable tourism again and again especially towards Indian tourists.
Bravo Rupesh! Thank you for exchanging with us and sharing with us so much information and experience.