Indian state plans tsunami-tourism

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2008, 12:00am

Areas of the tsunami-wrecked coast of Tamil Nadu in southern India could be preserved under a tourism ministry plan to create memorials to the communities washed away during the December 2004 disaster.

More than 8,000 people died and, almost four years later, many villages have been rebuilt. But some areas remain deserted, largely out of reluctance among many fishing communities who refuse to return fearing another catastrophe.

The Tamil Nadu Tourism Ministry has earmarked some of those deserted areas where some fishermen's homes still lie flattened, to be designated as tsunami memorials.

'We want to educate tourists about the devastating impact of the tsunami otherwise it will be forgotten and the memory of what these families and villages suffered will vanish,' said T. Kamaraj, a civil servant in the tourism ministry.

Areas such as Mamallapuram, Poompuhar, Marina and two islands - MGR Thittu and Chinnavaykal - will be potentially redeveloped to tap the 'tsunami tourism' market.

Local property developer, Ravi Chandran, wants to ensure future generations remember how people were swept away into the Indian Ocean.

'I carried 36 bodies ashore that day,' Mr Chandran recalled. 'Countless friends and relatives of mine lost their loved ones. In 20 years' time, people won't have a clue what the tsunami did and that is not fair to the thousands who perished.'

On MGR Thittu island, boats ripped in half still lie scattered on the beach along with tea stalls flung into the coconut trees by the waves.

If the plan goes ahead memorials featuring photographs and other documented evidence of the disaster will be displayed for tourists ferried by boats to the islands from the coast.

However, not all locals support the idea. A social worker, V. Shekhar, said: 'One man who lost his wife and two children told me he didn't want people marketing his tragedy.'