Rethink tourism in Andamans: report

Written by Surabhi Agarwal | New Delhi, Aug 10 | Updated: Aug 11 2008, 07:50am hrs
With an aim to being back the tourists to the Andamans after the Tsunami lashed the islands, the government launched a slew a proposals to boost tourism in the Islands. Though the initiatives of the government have borne happy fruits, the fall out of it is more noteworthy.

A glance at the figures reveals that tourism in the Andamans has risen from less than 10,000 tourists in 1981 to over 1.27 lakh in 2006. Correlating the number of tourists with the population of the islands, for every 100 people there are 3 tourists. The boom in tourism in the area is putting pressure on the limited resources of the Island according to a report titled Rethink tourism in the Andamans carried out by Equations, a non-profit research and policy advocacy firm.

At a macro economic level currently tourism doesn't play a significant role in the economy of Andamans and Nicobar Islands (A&NI) both in terms of contribution to GSDP and employment. In terms of its contribution to revenue generation, tourism contributes 1.47% to indirect tax collection, which is not significant, says the report.

As the numbers say tourism is not having any major impact on the economy of the islands, however, the impact of increasing tourist arrivals is adding to the ecological fragility and geological sensitivity of the area. In the Andamans, forests cover 89.2% of the total geographical area. Currently, 14% of the land is revenue land and is used to human settlements, agriculture etc.

Conservation of island ecosystems is paramount because not only does a proportion of the people depend on them for livelihood, but because they also harbour half of the tropical marine biodiversity of the world, says the report.

Development in the wake of increasing tourism has taken its toll of the ecosystem of the area. The forest area is declining as it is being converted to agriculture; there has been loss in biodiversity due to encroachments, monoculture plantations are taking place apart from uncontrolled immigration into the islands.

According to the report, in 2006, there was a more significant rise in domestic tourist arrivals between the months of August and December. The reason for this is expected to be government's relaxing the LTC rules in May 2005 after Tsunami to give a push to tourism in the Islands. While 93% of the total arrivals are domestic, the rest are from foreign lands.

The relatively lower cost of holiday is what attracts maximum number of domestic tourists to the area apart from the fact that the islands have emerged as a hub for adventure sports like snorkelling, scuba diving and trekking which attracts foreigners to the place.