The Lakshadweep archipelago, off the Indian coast of Kerala, is a group of 10 inhabited islands, 17 uninhabited coral islands, attached islets, 4 newly formed islets and 5 submerged reefs. 93% of the inhabitants are Muslims, most belonging to scheduled tribes – a designation given to communities with ‘primitive traits, distinctive culture, geographical isolation and shyness in contact with the community at large’.
They catch and process tuna fish, grow coconuts and produce yarn fibre and coir matting products from coconut fibre. There is little economic inequality in Lakshadweep, the poverty index is low and the islands are virtually crime-free.
Only five islands are visited by tourists and foreign nationals are not permitted to visit four of the islands. Foreign tourists are only allowed to come to Bangaram, an uninhabited island, where consumption of alcohol is permitted. They fly from Kochi to Agatti, the nearest island to Bangaram which has an airport.
In 1967, the Administrator passed the Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands (Restriction on Entry and Residence) Rules; every person who is not a native of these islands has to obtain a permit before entering these islands.
Since the carrying capacity of these tiny islands has to be kept in mind, any activities related with tourism has to be carried out with great care. The necessity of preventing environmental imbalance is stressed and sea based tourism is undertaken to ensure that land resources are not over taxed.
Day tourists are brought by ship and board them from the islands before nightfall. Numbers booked are based on the carrying capacity of the islands and shortage of essential items including drinking water. Visitors are warned that picking up coral is illegal.
The effects of the tsunami of December 2004 were felt all along the coast of Kerala. But the impact was not uniform throughout, certain areas were exposed and adjacent areas were left unscathed. The waves, after a free run until reaching the southern tip of Sri Lanka, got diffracted and turned towards the north to enter the Lakshadweep Sea but the coral reefs of were undamaged.