Greens see red over plans to promote tourism in Netrani

Greens see red over plans to promote tourism in Netrani

Green activists and conservationists are up in arms over Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s announcement in the Budget for 2014-15 that the State government would organise a Netrani Beach Festival to promote tourism on the ecologically sensitive island in Uttara Kannada district.

Uttara Kannada District In-charge and Tourism Minister R V Deshpande said: “We have sent a proposal to the Central government seeking permission for tourism development there. I have been told the tourism ministry has taken it up on a priority basis, and work could start by 2015. During the beach festival, people can visit the rare spot and enjoy scuba diving.”

Officials from the Tourism Department said they wanted to promote scuba diving at Netrani as the island was the only place in the country which offered it. Besides, adventure sports will be promoted throughout the year, they said.

But environmentalists and conservationists have opposed the idea saying that any form of tourism, even regulated, would spoil the eco-sensitive region.

V N Nayak, chairman, Department of Marine Biology, Karwar, said: “No co
nstruction or any sort of development in and around Netrani should take place. The Navy has stopped shelling and it has been six months since the High Court orders now. We are holding a biodiversity meeting in Karwar on February 24 regarding the coastal and marine biodiversity management. Karwar and Netrani will be the highlights.”

Netrani is the grand nesting place for white-bellied sea eagles, which are listed under the Wildlife Protection Act and International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

It is also home to Edible-nest Swiftlets, sea corals, a large number of rare fish and plant fish species. Some rare and plant species endemic to the Western Ghats plant are also found here. Whales, whale sharks, three species of dolphins, including bottle-nosed dolphins, and sea cucumbers frequent the area.

“There should be no beach tourism too, as the whole area from Murudeshwar to Netrani Islands will get spoilt. Tourism budget is for the rich. Through this, most parts of the beach will become private properties. Coastal Zonal Regulations should be retained and with this, tourism can be developed. People tourism and community-based tourism are more preferred,” Nayak said. 

Subash Chandran from the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, said: “There will be a stream of visitors entering the caves on the island where birds and bat species rest. Their nesting will get disturbed. Also, undue snorkelling and scuba diving will spoil the region as people will want to touch the corals or even break them. If the department is talking of regulated tourism, the question is who will regulate it.
”When asked about the biodiversity and conservation, Deshpande conceded, “I have never visited Netrani and Murudeshwar and I am not aware of any such issues. I have not gone deep into the subject but just know the gist of it. But I am aware that boating and scuba diving are not banned here. But if you are telling me about the environment, then I can say that environment and ecology protection is our duty and it will be done.”

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