Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Plea to convert golf course into biodiversity park

The Global Anti-Golf Course Movement (GAG'M) asked the Government of Kerala to convert the Thiruvananthapuram golf course into a public biodiversity park. The following is the text of a letter it has addressed to the Chief Minister in this regard:

We are writing to you to express our concerns over the negative impacts of golf courses and kindly ask you to support the proposals of Kerala Tourism Watch and other civil society organizations for a moratorium on all golf course developments in Kerala and for the conversion of the controversial Trivandrum golf course into a public biodiversity park for conservation and education.

To introduce ourselves, we belong to an alliance of citizens and non-governmental organizations who in 1993 formed the Global Anti-Golf Movement (GAG'M) in Penang, Malaysia, as a response to the worldwide outcry of thousands of communities harmed by environmentally and socially damaging golf course projects. For more than fifteen years, we have been involved in actions to raise public awareness on the multi-dimensional problems related to golf course and resort developments and to foster an open and frank debate with decision-makers on the impacts of golf courses and golf tourism.

Case studies from around the world clearly show that golf course projects that are often part of large-scale tourism schemes can cause immeasurable environmental losses and hardships for local residents. Such developments devour huge stretches of land, destroy forest, coastal and marine areas, and wipe-out invaluable biological diversity. High-standard golf courses require a package of imported grass, fertilizers and a wide range of chemical products, including colouring, soil hardening and coagulating agents, and the yearly spraying of thousands of kilogrammes of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, all of which contribute to pollution and degradation of the local environment. On top of that, golf resorts consume enormous amounts of water, tens of millions of gallons, all year round, often resulting in chronic water shortage crises in neighbouring areas.

Local governments tend to believe that golf courses will raise their city's image, attract investors and bring in tourist dollars. But often such projects create skewed land use and deprive local residents of land and resources they depend on.
In these times when all efforts are needed to work for food and water security for common people, it is highly irresponsible to promote the elitist and exclusive lifestyle of golf and golf tourism. In China, critics called golf 'green opium' as more and more precious farmlands were turned into water-guzzling and toxic fairways. The central government responded in December 2006 by banning the building of new golf courses, residential villas and race tracks on undeveloped land in order to protect China's rapidly diminishing farmland. And in the face of a looming food crisis, the government of the Philippines recently also decided to prohibit the conversion of agricultural lands into luxury housing, resorts and golf courses.
We do hope that the concerned government agencies in Kerala and New Delhi will also give priority to land for people's livelihood, food production and the protection and enhancement of your environment.

Therefore we are sending out this appeal to respectfully request that you heed the citizens' call for a moratorium on golf courses in Kerala. We agree that all existing and proposed projects in the state should be given up immediately.
We also agree with the local civil society groups that it would be unreasonable and not in the public interest to maintain the controversial Trivandrum golf course with state subsidies. To convert it into a public biodiversity park for the enjoyment and education of both local residents and tourists is a highly recommendable plan that should be realized by the concerned authorities as soon as possible.

In this age of growing environmental awareness, there is no more place on Earth for destructive, wasteful and exploitative golf courses!

Yours sincerely,

Anita Pleumarom

Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team (tim-team)
On behalf of the Global Anti-Golf Course Movement's (GAG'M) coordinating groups:
Third World Network (TWN)
Consumers Association of Penang (CAP), Malaysia
Friends of the Earth (FoE), Malaysia
Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team (tim-team), Thailand
Global Network for Anti-Golf Course Action (GNAGA), Japan
Helping Our Peninsula's Environment (HOPE), USA
GAG'M liaison initiative UK (Desmond Fernandes)
Additional signatories:
Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), United Kingdom

Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team (tim-team)
P.O. Box 51 Chorakhebua
Bangkok 10230, Thailand

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