Mass tourism in Kodagu: A disaster in making, experts say
While tourism supports the economy of the district, several residents oppose the boom of mass tourism.
MADIKERI: Over 30,000 tourists visited the hotspot tourist destination of Raja Seat in Madikeri during the long weekend of August 11. On average, 5000 tourists visited Mandalpatti hillock in Madikeri every day between August 12 and August 15. The district recorded an increased footfall of tourists from August 11 to August 15 even as the traffic across urban areas went out of control.
While tourism supports the economy of the district, several residents oppose the boom of mass tourism. They share that uncontrolled tourism is paving a road to disaster in the already fragile ecosystem of Kodagu.
“There are numerous resorts that claim to be eco-friendly. However, they suck out tons of water to fulfil their needs and dump 50 to 60 sacks of garbage in the dumping site every day,” lamented Retd. Col Muthanna, founder of Environment and Health Foundation (India). He opined that there is a need to regulate the tourist inflow into the district to preserve the ecology.
“There are several eco-sensitive places across the country and fixed passes are issued for visits per day. The same needs to be implemented at top tourist spots in the district. To prevent further damage to the fragile ecosystem, licenses for hotels, resorts and extension of existing commercial units must be stopped. There is also a need to restrict the number of homestays in each taluk,” he suggested. He, meanwhile, confirmed that he has written to the National Green Tribunal complaining against a new private resort that has come up across landslide-prone areas in Makkandur region.
The district has only about 1600 homestays that are registered with the district tourism department. However, there are over 7000 homestays across the district and the majority of them have not registered with the tourism department. “Since there are so many homestays, any number of tourists can be accommodated. There is an immediate need to control the illegal stays to regulate the tourist inflow,” opined Chethan M, an entrepreneur based in Virajpet.
When questioned about the illegal homestays, Yatish Ullal, the in-charge DD of the district tourism department said, “As per the Karnataka Tourism policy, the department does not have any clause or penal code to take action against illegal homestays. We are just a development agency and not a regulatory body. While we facilitate licenses to homestays and encourage them to register, we cannot take any legal action. It is important that the local bodies including grama panchayats regulate the number of homestays in their regions.” While the budget stressed on promoting eco-tourism in the district, the department has not received any guidelines pertaining to the same.