Monday, June 9, 2008

NGOs demand closure of golf courses

KERALA TOURISM WATCH, a coalition ofcivil society activists and local communities, EQUATIONS and KABANI –the other direction, have, in a joint statement, urged the Kerala government to wind up the Trivandrum golf club and abandon its golf course. They believe environmental and social impacts warrant a more fundamental approach of dissolution rather than changing the ownership from private to public.

The golf courses are being increasingly brought in to focus due to the environmental and social problems that they engender. Everywhere in the world golf courses have been a major threat for local communities primarily in terms of uncontrolled ground water depletion. Trivandrum golf course, for example, has been reportedly consuming lakhs of litres of water every day to maintain the grass turf.
Conservative estimates by various international agencies show that an 18-hole golf course would consume five million litres of water a day, enough for nearly 10,000
families in a state like Kerala. We must remember that the water consumption by the Coca Cola plant at Plachimada was 500,000 litres a day. It is hardly surprising that the arrears towards water charges of Trivandrum Golf Club ran in to several lakhs of rupees.
At a time when the common people in the city face acute water shortage, maintaining a golf course with direct and indirect state subsidies violate principles of social justice. The argument that the golf courses would promote tourism in the state is completely unfounded. While we are critical of state's tourism policies in general we would like to point out that this argument is particularly flawed. Studies have shown that tourists visiting destinations in developing countries including India belong to the low
spending segment of international travellers. It is unlikely that they will be interested in golf. Alternatively golf courses will not be an adequate incentive for high spending travellers to visit destinations in poor countries. Allowing golf courses to flourish disregarding their environmental and social impacts will only serve the interest of
the local elites.

We understand that the government has been forced to take over the golf course in Trivandrum due to repeated failures on the part the club to comply with the administrative, legal and social requirements. However, taking over the club from its current leadership while the space could continue to be used as golf course will not bring any fundamental change.

The coalition demands that government should take back this valuable property and sees this opportunity to convert it into a bio diversity park. The coalition strongly condemns the attempt by club authorities to use the tourism façade to legitimise their elitist biases and vested interests.

No more golf courses should be allowed in Kerala while the existing ones should be immediately closed down. In this connection we demand the closure of Trivandrum and Kochi golf courses and shelving of the proposed one in Nedumbassery. We note with extreme concern that the Nedumbassery project involves land acquired by evicting local people in the name of Nedumbassery international airport. Tourism department and government of Kerala should pay attention to the concerns raised by national and international movements which oppose golf courses on environmental and social grounds.

The coalition would initiate a state level campaign with the support of civil society organizations to highlight the harmful impacts of golf courses and for abandoning all golf course projects in the state.

EQUATIONS - 9447079763
KABANI – the other direction - 9388402948
Kerala Tourism Watch

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