Imagine a place spanning miles and miles of the ocean, flanked by rolling green hills, spotted with wooden cottages disguised behind the foliage, through which rivers green and spotless flow. This forms a wide estuary with small islands in the middle overrun by the sea when in high tide. Fisherman, whose faces are lined less by grief, more by the sun float about in their shapely wooden boats and forage for shell fish – prawns, clams, even oysters and the big mud crabs dwell in these waters. At night, the scene is perhaps more professed – lights play a volley as fire-flies light up the forest like the stars that light up the sky. The true play of color is in the sea itself which lights up as you step into the water – a phenomena called bio luminance, as spectacular as the northern lights but perhaps a little more unique, a little less explored.
This is a town called Kumta, Uttar Kanad. This is India.
A district with so much natural resource available for harvest that it can soon be overrun by commerce, with most of its beauty plundered. And so the community has come together to protect its own, with a vision to give back to the land as much as they take from it. And in doing so, create a circular economy.
The king pin is the tourism industry – acting as a foundation that houses micro-economies. The idea is to create several hospitality products – a large hotel with convention center, a range of high-end tents and Finnish glass structures for exclusive experiences, lodges around the river for wildlife spotting and bamboo homestays for the affordable segment. These properties are built around sustainability – careful use of water, natural filtration plants, recycling & waste management to avoid polluting natural resources, solar plants for energy efficiencies etc. The hospitality projects shall be the natural consumers for all resources and provide the following opportunities.
- Entrepreneurship – Many locals will be asked to provide land for setting up of homestays. They shall be coached on providing services and will have revenue share arrangements with Capex providers.
- Employment – a large part of the community will be employed with these hospitality providers who focus on local recruitment. Hospitality training shall be provided to uplift basic skills.
- Food consumption – the fisheries, dairies and farmers shall provide a large part of their stock for daily consumption. In addition, each project shall entail their own kitchen farms and provide herbs, vegetables etc
- Local Activities – several activities are planned – from floating restaurants to fishing & water sports. Excursions into the jungles, foraging, birding and wildlife tours are also part of the plan. Locals will be trained to provide these services.
- Arts & Crafts – the fishing men leave behind their wives who focus on mending the nets, splitting and bending bamboo to make furniture and other products that can be sold directly to hotels or to their customers through souvenir shops.
While Tourism makes use of the micro suppliers, certain large industries can grow autonomously. Fisheries can tie up with cold storage companies for surplus produce. Transport providers will increase – helicopters will transport customers from Goa / Bangalore and local Taxis (battery vehicles) will take care of within-area travel. Dairy products such as cheeses can be produced too, directly contracting with large chains such as Pizza Hut. And each of these industries in turn shall provide an impetus to Tourism.
This is a $300 million project under the United Nations to conserve natural resources and create huge impact across the 150 Km radius of the Kumta district. And if we can save one district, one untouched virgin district and make it into a thriving vibrant and economically strong circular economy, it can stand as a demonstration. A proof of concept for a better India, a better world.