‘Destination Tsunami’: Stories and Struggles from India’s southern coast is an exclusive photography exhibition supported by Tourism Concern running until 5th April at The Guardian Gallery in London. It is over five years since the December 2004 tsunami devastated the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. This exhibition tells the stories and conveys the hardships endured by coastal communities as they attempt to withstand the multiple pressures of rapid tourism development. This includes the threat of displacement from their land, loss of livelihoods, environmental degradation and alienation from traditional ways of life. Despite massive aid-flows to the region, many families are still waiting for their tsunami-damaged homes to be rebuilt. Others endure cramped and undignified living conditions, while the funds that were meant to assist them are channeled instead into beachfront beautification schemes for tourists. The exhibition also pays tribute to the many brave individuals and groups which are resisting the powerful developers and government policies that promote tourism at their expense. It creates a unique space for the voices of Indian fishing and farming communities, activists, displaced families, the old and the young, the dispossessed and the defiant, to be heard by holidaymakers and tourism policy-makers in the UK.
The exhibition poses some challenging questions about who is paying the real cost of tourism development. Can the drive to develop coastlines for tourism in the name of economic growth justify the dislocation of poor people from their land and traditional livelihoods? How can tourism be developed in a way that provides sustainable benefits to local communities and the environment? Why are so many people still struggling to rebuild their lives despite huge tsunami aid flows to the region?
Tourism Concern is actively supporting efforts in India to protect land and livelihoods from unsustainable tourism development. Admission is free to the exhibition so don’t miss the opportunity to catch it before it closes early next month. The gallery is open daily and is located at King’s Place, 90 York Way, N1 (nearest tube is Kings Cross).