St. Mary’s Island

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Networking of research application is crucial for the global campaign to protect coastal areas vulnerable to disasters like tsunamis, a British official said in Mangalore on Friday.

“The severest consequences of climate change affect the coastal communities which are vulnerable to a host of disasters,” Eunice Crook, Director, British Council, Chennai said inaugurating a two-day conference on “Integrating Research with Social Agenda: Action Plan for Sustainable Coastal Development in Karnataka.”

The tsunami was followed a year later by an unusually active monsoon and low lying areas and coastal communities were the worst affected in places like Chennai, Crook said. 

World over scientists have to contend with their ability to distil the relevance of their scientific work and apply it to the benefit of the society, she said.  She highlighted the need to facilitate partnerships between individuals and institutions in the UK and India in pooling knowledge and researching issues of common interest.

Well, closer home, the Tsunami has left a lasting and devastating effect on our coastal communities as well.  St. Mary?s Island, a 25 acre Lava Island in the Arabian Sea, about 8 kms away from Malpe sea shore in the Udupi district, still bears the after effects of the Tsunami.  Prior to the Tsunami, it?s unique square shaped rocks believed to have been formed out of lava flowing out of volcanoes,  the picturesque coconut trees and the evergreen seaside bushes found abundantly on the island had made it a popular tourist destination.  Many movies that have been shot here, had added to the attraction of the place bringing tourists from around the country. 

But post Tsunami, the island is deserted as very few people visit it.  But is the Tsunami only to be blamed?

The island, called Tonse Paru by the locals, came into focus after the Geographical Survey of India announced it as a rare geographical monument of the world way back in 1979.  Though the department of tourism recognised this place as an ideal tourist spot, it did nothing except arrange boat transport for the visitors.

Out of sheer business compulsions, a boat contractor K. Sadananda Amin added some facilities for visitors. The tourism department began seriously thinking about this place only in 1999 when Gaurav Gupta was the deputy commissioner of the district. It was then that some infrastructural development took place, but nothing much could be done due to the introduction of the CRZ law.

Though KSTDC has spent Rs 40 lakh on infrastructural development in Malpe sea beach, no money was spent on St Mary’s Island. The CRZ norms have in a way preserved the beauty of the island.  But the place badly needs basic facilities like drinking water, good sanitation, etc. Though it is a natural picnic spot, the necessary amenities that would make it an ideal one aren’t in place. 

The only consolation for tourists is that some developmental activity is taking place at the island.  Only time will tell if this development will eventually transform the Island into an idyllic tourist location.  


Author: Ramesh Pandith- Mangalore

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