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Friday, April 16, 2010

Edition 15 : Eco Tourism Need of the Hour

Tourism development in any area invariably leads to economic growth of that area, which is manifested in terms of increase in income and employment opportunities, infrastructural growth, improvement in the standard of living, etc. Its impacts for the host communities are enormous, and have a wider distribution. However, tourism development is often accompanied with a host of negative impacts on ecology, environment, and socio-economy of the host communities/destinations2–5. The studies on tourism reveal its negative impacts in terms of loss of biodiversity, deforestation, congested settlements, landscape alterations, slums, pollution of air, water and soil, siltation of water bodies, loss of wetlands, loss of land titles, social alienation, change in lifestyle and traditions, etc. The much talked about economic gains are captured by a handful of people, while the social costs are borne by the entire host community. At times tourism also poses a threat to the host culture. The concept of eco-tourism gives a way of relief from this peril. Eco-tourism is more than a catch phrase for nature loving travel and recreation. It is consecrated for preserving and sustaining the diversity of the world's natural and cultural environments. It accommodates and entertains visitors in a way that is minimally intrusive or destructive to the environment and sustains & supports the native cultures in the locations it is operating in. Responsibility of both travellers and service providers is the genuine meaning for eco-tourism. Eco-tourism also endeavours to encourage and support the diversity of local economies for which the tourism-related income is important. With support from tourists, local services and producers can compete with larger, foreign companies and local families can support themselves. Saving the environment around you and preserving the natural luxuries and forest life, that's what eco-tourism is all about. Whether it's about a nature camp or organizing trekking trips towards the unspoilt and inaccessible regions, one should always keep in mind not to create any mishap or disturbance in the life cycle of nature. Eco-tourism is typically defined as travel to destinations where the flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Responsible Eco-tourism includes programs that minimize the adverse effects of traditional tourism on the natural environment, and enhance the cultural integrity of local people. Therefore, in addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, initiatives by hospitality providers to promote recycling, energy efficiency, water reuse, and the creation of economic opportunities for local communities are an integral part of Eco-tourism. Eco-tourism is considered the fastest growing market in the tourism industry, according to the World Tourism Organization with an annual growth rate of 5% worldwide and representing 6% of the world gross domestic product, 11.4% of all consumer spending - a sizeable market. If we want to sustain the growth of tourism and keept the tourist spots intact, it is mandatory for us to not only promote the eco-tourism, but also actively implement its impacts. This is question of preserving our past for the future generations.

Foiling The Environment
From Uttar Pradesh to Keral, the negative impact of tourism can be seen everywhere. A report on impact of tourism on tigers and other wildlife in Corbett Tiger Reserve was filed by Prerna Singh Bindra. The study was done on behalf of Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. The report concluded, “the tourist resorts have all but blocked the very crucial Kosi river corridor that links Corbett to the Ramnagar Forest Division. The kind of tourism practised is not in sync with conservation objectives in a critical tiger habitat. Corbett Tiger Reserve is getting crowded from all sides, and new tourism hotspots are now crowding other corridors i.e . Belpadao (or Bailpadao)-Kotabagh. Tourism inside the core critical habitat unis sustainable.” Current tourism activities and infrastructure is impinging on tiger and elephant corridors, and threaten to irretrievably block crucial links and isolate critical populations. The rapid growth of tourism –both in terms of number of tourists and infrastructure is unsustainable. It can be safely concluded that in its current form tourism is a serious threat to Corbett, recommended the report. In a study done on the’ Back Water Tourism in Kerala: Challenges and Opportunities’ by Prof.Siby Zacharias, Dr James Manalel, Prof. M.C. Jose and Afsal Salam, it was found that number of local people and foreign people who believe that there is no effect on environment is very small. But among the tour operators it is high. The local people are actually facing the problems such as waste, plastic deposit, increase in price of food items due to demand from the part of rich customers, decrease in the cultural and moral values perceived by them.

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