The Maharashtra government's move to set up a Rs510-crore dolphin and water theme park along the Sindhudurg coastline has come in for criticism from environmentalists and activists, both in India and abroad.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has given an in-principle approval for a 'Sea World,' to be developed on a public-private-partnership model, on the lines of dolphin theme parks in the US and other countries.
According to Chhagan Bhujbal, the tourism minister, the project is part of a move to develop the state's 720-km-long coastline for tourism. The proposed Sea World would feature a dolphinarium, theme restaurants, a theatre and other facilities for tourists.
But in a letter to Bhujbal, Naomi A. Rose, senior scientist, wildlife, Humane Society International (HSI), has pointed out that the construction of a dolphinarium is a high-impact endeavour, often requiring substantial environmental disruption.
''HSI strongly opposes proposals to build new dolphin parks (also known as dolphinariums), especially in regions where such facilities do not already exist, as this may mean that animals must be imported or captured from the wild and / or appropriate local expertise is lacking,'' wrote Rose. ''HSI strongly urges you to reconsider your support for this proposal.''
It says true ecotourism has minimal costs to the environment and maximum benefits for the local community. Dolphinariums in new areas do not comply with either of these requirements since in many areas where dolphinariums have been recently introduced, the expertise for these facilities comes from outside (primarily the US and Europe), meaning the best-paying jobs do not go to locals and often the majority of revenue goes to non-nationals.