Trouble in paradise?

Just three and a half hours down south west of Kolkata is the beautiful beachtown of Mandarmani, which, of late, has become one of the most popular tourists spots for Kolkatans looking to get away from the hustle, bustle, smoke and noise of the city. For long, Mandarmanihad remained a neglected cousin of Digha. Now, thanks to loads of illegal real estate deals, resort sand budget shacks line the 13 kilometre-long motorable beach. Good news for travellersbut not so for environmentalists.

A curious aspect of the beach in Mandarmani is, to reach the high-end resorts, one has to drive 6 kilometres on the beach during low tide. This is particularly problematic as this beach road closes during high tides, which are, again, unpredictable in nature. But more than that, cars zooming up and down this beach road cause much air pollution and leave the beach reeking of car fumes.

Says Kolkata-based environmentalist and social worker, Dipika Ghosh, “Sea beaches have a very delicate ecological balance. First of all, driving on the beach releases poisonous fumes into the atmosphere which are hazardous to the marine ecosystem. Secondly, most often, drivers become speed demons and drive at around 100 kmph. Those enjoying a bath in the sea or just lazying around on the beach may face the danger of being hit. Thirdly, those risking a drive on the beach before high tide may find their vehicles stuck in the sand.”

Travellers, so far, have paid little heed to these hazards choosing to live it up on the beach. “It is very rare to find beaches in India where you can drive comfortably. Though the risk of accidents and getting caught during high tide is there, it’s worth it as it is an awesome experience,” said Dibakar, 27, who travels to Mandarmani every two weeks with his friends.

( First appeared in Times of India on 24 April, 2011. )

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