I have spent countless hours of my younger life sitting on a hillock overlooking Akkulam Lake, in Trivandrum, Kerala. It’s beauty and wonders surpassed my imagination, gave me hope and stood by me during days of joy and sadness.
On an early morning stroll during my recent visit in July, I was shell shocked to see how much the lake has been destroyed. We preach responsible tourism but what you see is not what you get in Kerala.
A walkway that foreigners would pay to enjoy is now a gutter during the rains, thanks to the way it was designed and constructed.
The lake reeks of methyl alcohol from all the degradation that has happened.
Plastic abounds and last night’s fry bread and chicken curry are strewn across the sideways. Every form of plastic is there to destroy a lake that once upon a time was beautiful and had a life of its own.
And, just recently, a 63-year-old woman was mauled to death by stray dogs in India’s most advanced society. Some said she didn’t have a toilet at home and had to go out in the open and the dogs attacked her. However, others said the rich dump their waste in plastic bags into their neighborhood and the dogs’ feast on them. They breed soon, and act like packs of angry wolves.
Sustainable tourism cannot survive by dumping plastic in our precious waterways. They are areas designed for people to enjoy, learn and relax.
According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, plastic never goes away, it spoils our ground water, destroys our environment, gets into the food chain and harms wildlife.
The worst of all? It takes millions of dollars to abate plastic pollution.
For those who give awards for tourism based on sleekly designed advertising campaigns, let the truth be told. What you see is not what you get.
Founder of Lettersnatcher.com, Sarat Pratapchandran’s career spans philanthropy, corporate social responsibility & content management. A graduate from Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, he worked as a journalist in India, the Middle East and the United States and now advises and mentors individuals at kanthari, an international organization focused on creating social visionaries around the world. Sarat is also on a personal mission to help 50 orphans by age 50.