A Responsible Tourism approach towards Coastal and Community DevelopmentBy A. Lajwanti NaiduIndian spiritual belief system comprises of Panchabhutaor five elements. They are Earth –prithvi, Water –jal, Air –Vayu, Fire –Agni, Ether -Akasham. Water – one of the 5 elements of Panchatatva is a life giving element. Civilizations have developed on the banks of the rivers. From Indus valley to Mespotomian civilization, water facilitated the growth of humanity perpetually.Aligned with the Cape Town declaration of Responsible Tourism to ‘create better places for people to live and tourists to visit’, the Chennai Municipality is taking keen interest and initiatives to keep the life of the city clean. The present government has clearly understood that Responsible Tourism is not a product but it an approach which can be used by travellers, tour operators, and planning authorities of national and regional level. Moreover this approach involvesseveral stakeholders to sustain it at the grass root level.My recent visit to Chennai has brought a paradigm shift in the good governance practices adoptedby thecity municipality.The Indian Coast line is 7516 km with a vast potential to promote beach tourism. The nearest European country which matches this figure is Italy- 7600 km. Apart from this India is one of the major fish suppliers in the world. Presently fisheries and aqua culture contributes 1.07% to the GDP. Fisheries are an important sector in India providing employment to millions of people and contributing to the food security of the country. With an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of over 2 million sq km and fresh water resources it enhances not only the economic development but also provides livelihood to several fishing communities.There are more than 14 million people rely on fishing. In Tamil Nadu alone, 2.23 lakh people depend on fishing. In Chennai, there are 96 wholesale and retail fish markets. My visit to Nochikuppam, a fishing hamlet near Marina beach, gave me insight into the life of more than 15,000 people from the fishermen community who were living for over decades. Since 1985, Tamil Nadu government has been trying to relocate them to different locations as they want to develop this as tourist place. The new locations were not convenient for the fishermen, as they are far away from the sea and also from the city. Sivinpadaivithikuppam is another fishing village in north Chennai. Past 100 years, 5000 people were living here. Here, 99% of the fishermen do net fishing.Considering the Coast line and the fishermen communityI found that the initiatives taken by the municipality has beckoned the others to follow. Following are the 5 Cs to transform into Charismatic Chennai.Coastal Development: The infrastructural Development on the coastal areas enhanced the beauty of the city. Measures are taken to clean the beaches by various volunteer groups. The beach cleaning was organised as part of the Joy of Giving to the nature led by a Non Governmental Organisation, Bhumi. Over a thousand people from every walk of life, from the employees of the Barclays Bank, to students of Chennai’s Corporation schools, to volunteers from the Chennai Trekking Club and other civic organisations in the city participate in cleaning up which happens at the Light House, Santhome, Broken Bridge near Elliot’s Beach and Foreshore Estate. The volunteers manage to collect a total of 4.65 tons of waste approximately in every cleaning session and later on it is used in a more productive and responsible way.Carrying Capacity: Chennai is proud about the natural coastline. The Marina Beach, The VGP Golden Beach- all of them havecertain standards which they adhere to along with the crowd management. The sports activities are generally scheduled in the morning or evening and tourists and families on weekend and holidays. The citizens are also highly sensitised about the conservation of aquatic bodies through various responsible initiatives.Community Development: The children of the fishermen community were educated at several colleges in Chennai under the University of Madras. In all the application forms for the admissionsthere are special provisions for ‘First Generation Learners’ where the child is the first individual to embark on the journey towards reading, writing and learning.Special emphasis is given to education in sports and extra-curricular activities which boost the confidence and self-esteem of the child.Corporation Initiatives: Women are employed at various parts to collect the plastic waste and keep the beach clean. A monetary benefit for working apart from selling fish has motivated them to take part in these initiatives. For women,sea is their mother goddess.A part of the waste that was collected was also segregated into plastic and biodegradable waste. The plastic waste that littered the beaches was then sent to make some tough roads in the village of Medambakkam in the Kacheepuram district. The village head requested for the plastic. So after segregation it was sent to the village for use to lay the roads which was a noble initiative of the corporation.Competitive Destination: Compared to another beach destination like Kanyakumari, Vishakhapatnam, Rameswarm, Cochin etc Chennai predominately stands out for the impact of the British Colonial rule. The impact of English as a medium of communication, the simple Dravidian way of living combined with spirituality has definitely gives Chennai an added advantage.