The Ecological Implications Of Lakshadweep's New-Found Popularity

The rising tourist footfall in Lakshadweep has worried environmentalists, who are now concerned about the union territory's ecological sensitivity and limited carrying capacity
Lakshadweep
LakshadweepShutterstock

Tourism in Lakshadweep has been on the rise after several ministers from the Maldives made objectionable remarks against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi following his campaign promoting tourism on the island.

The Maldives-India situation has suddenly placed Lakshadweep in the spotlight. Everyone from celebrities to central ministers is now vouching for tourism in India's smallest union territory. The bookings have tripled, with prominent platforms like MakeMyTrip reporting a 3,400 per cent increase in tourist searches for Lakshadweep. #ChaloLakshadweep has been trending on social media platform X.

The island has become the new keyword for investors, with a Gujarat-based firm reportedly planning to set up 50 luxury tents. Two Taj resorts are also slated to open here in 2026. Israel has pitched for the archipelago's "enchanting allure," announcing it will commence working on the desalination programme here.

However, amidst the brouhaha, locals and environmentalists are worried about how a massive influx of tourists may affect the ecological sensitivity of the area and its limited carrying capacity.

Lakshadweep is stunningly beautiful
Lakshadweep is stunningly beautifulShutterstock

A Fragile Ecosystem

With an area of 32 sq km, Lakshadweep has ten inhabited islands, 17 uninhabited islands attached to islets, four newly formed islets and five submerged reefs. Among the inhabited islands, Kavaratti, Agatti, Kadmat, Bangaram and Thinnakara are actively used for tourism, which is still an emerging industry. Occupations like fishing, coconut cultivation and coir twisting are the primary sources of livelihood for about 64,000 people living here.

Many fear the anticipated tourist influx will impact the island's fragile ecosystem, which is already threatened by deep-sea fishing, coral mining, and recurring climate change, heavily harming its beaches and dunes.

A fisherman on Agatti Island in Lakshadweep
A fisherman on Agatti Island in LakshadweepShutterstock

"Presently, Lakshadweep's ecosystem experiences minimal anthropogenic impact — environmental change caused by people, either directly or indirectly. However, as tourism grows, there will be a rise in waste generation, energy consumption, and transportation demands," shared Shounak from Marine Life Mumbai, a coastal conservation NGO.

"Extensive promotions often lead to a surge in visitors and unregulated tourism. The fragility of Lakshadweep's ecosystem arises from the prevalence of atolls (ring-shaped islands or reefs), which struggle to survive in regions influenced by overtourism. To address the ecological and economic needs of the archipelago, there is a necessity for proper sewage treatment, transportation, and accommodation," stated the coastal conservation expert.

Lakshadweep offers a handful of stay options. Minicoy, for instance, has three tourist cottages and a 20-bedded tourist home. There are also no five-star hotels in the archipelago. As for IHCL's two Taj-branded resorts on Suheli and Kadmat islands, it will take them another two years to come into shape.

Tourists exploring Kalpitty Island in Lakshadweep
Tourists exploring Kalpitty Island in Lakshadweep Mohijaz / Shutterstock

Lack Of Connectivity

Several tour operators have raised concerns regarding the limited connectivity options in the Union Territory. Shahjahan, the owner of Lakshadweep Travel Guru, a local travel agency, expressed happiness with the island's increased publicity. However, he emphasised the constraints in travel choices. "Presently, there are only two modes of reaching Lakshadweep: flight or ship. No flights are available if one wishes to travel from Agatti Island to Kochi post-noon. The only flight by Alliance Air departs before noon. Even the ship services are not available daily, and if a ticket is booked on one of the three ships, their services may experience frequent rescheduling." he said.

He added that more flights and frequent ships are needed, with a minimum of 3-4 flights operational daily. "Besides, there aren't adequate healthcare services. The government must prioritise infrastructural development and adopt a responsible approach to increase tourist activities in the archipelago."

A motorboat on Andrott Island in Lakshadweep
A motorboat on Andrott Island in Lakshadweepnichu__lak_photographs_/Instagram

Solution: A Sustainable Approach

Coastal conservation expert Shounak suggested that big tourism plans can be executed with a structured action plan. "The first step involves developing a feasibility plan and conducting an environmental impact assessment to identify ecologically significant islands and those with existing human habitation and trade activities. Considerations should be made for potential disruption to fishing activities caused by new developments, such as hotels," he added.

"Implementing sustainable measures, including preferring smaller hotels with a reduced carbon footprint and incorporating renewable energy sources, is crucial. Ensuring the presence of sewage treatment facilities and designated waste disposal areas is imperative to prevent environmental harm, particularly waste disposal into the sea. Given the limited space, exploring the possibility of handling accommodations through homestays is an option," he added.

What Do Officials Have To Say?

Lakshadweep Tourism Officer Ikram Qureshi concurred on promoting sustainable tourism, acknowledging the anticipated influx of tourists in the union territory amid the ongoing row. However, he said there was no need to worry as the local administration controls the bookings. "Entry is limited and visitors must have a proper permit. Tourists are given access depending on accommodation availability and carrying capacity," he said.

Qureshi further mentioned that the union territory is presently in the process of establishing tourism infrastructure.

Fishermen on Chetlat Island in Lakshadweep
Fishermen on Chetlat Island in Lakshadweeplakshadweep_ld/Instagram

Please note that non-natives must acquire a permit to enter and stay on these islands. Indian government officials, armed forces members, and their family members are exceptions to this requirement. Foreign tourists are required to possess a valid passport and visa to visit India.

Check out our guide to acquire a permit to enter Lakshadweep.

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