Sustainable Eco-tourism - DOC by hcj


									                           Sustainable Eco-tourism

Mountain environments, gifted with spectacular ecosystem offer unique
opportunity for organizing nature based tourism, so much desired by modern
man for the peace of his mind and the good of his soul, unfortunately,
experience in Alpine tourism belies such helps as the task is all too complex
to achieving sustainable development of tourism – a development that
contribute to human well being while maintaining harmony with natural
environment. In fact, one has to understand the phenomena of mountain
ecology to working for a “regenerative ecosystem” that should promise
stability in economic, social and ecological environments. One of the funniest
mountain myths is that they are considered symbols of strength and stability
while, surprisingly, they are inherently weak systems in their heights. The
loftier they stand, the fragile they become.

Close to this paradox is the fact that mountain ecosystems have meager
tolerance for human artifacts, especially for such activities that are resource –
exhaustive. Thus it, may be concluded that mountains are not desired for too
many humans, as they are delicate in their ecological make-up. Surely,
resilience of ecosystems may vary in degrees with different mountain systems
– tropical or temperate, high or low, young and old – allowing limited repairs
and redressals in different scales. However, youthful ones are more
vulnerable to erosion than the old. Ecosystems approach, therefore, should
be the solid base for initiating various development activities over the
mountain regions, especially tourism.

The Malaise of Tourism

Mountain tourism is a late corner especially in the tropical mountains, but its
impacts are of no mean significant; particularly in the fields of ecology, culture
and economy. In fact, there remains lots to learn how tourist development
affects various mountain ecosystems of forest, lakes, valleys and meadows.
Tourist impact research is still an understudied area. A few scholarly reports
from the Alpine countries point to many negative side-effects and discourage
tourism development in these regions of high eco-sensitivity. A few ecologists
and many sociologists have pronounced it „Bad‟ and even „Ugly‟. They
believe, that the good in tourism would not happen. It is, indeed disastrous
and most agonizing to see these natural heritage under threat of
unsympathetic development. Experts of tourism are trying to explore on the
possibilities of finding some working models for sustainable style or form of
tourism that should be a developed that conserves and not consumes the
spontaneously; it has to be worked out with care and expertise. Experts hold
that only a well managed, slow paced, controlled an integrated tourism
development can afford optimism and confidence in these regions of weak
economics and tender ecologies.

The remoter highlands are often recommended for promotion of tourism as
these regions have exceptionally attractive recreation resources of Nature and
Culture. But again, these are special areas of extraordinary susceptibility with
highly protective nature elements, where even right kind of development may
damage the resource, considerably. If tourism development in these scenic
regions is the only economic opportunity for the well being of marginal
communities, „defensive tourism‟ should be the foremost priority.

The good in tourism can be discovered by using proven skills and appropriate
development technology. In some of the Alpine countries of Europe,
experience and expertise produced good results in strengthening Mountain
economy with minimum environmental costs. In some parts of the world, a
full 50 percent jobs are based on tourism. To some, this is a success story of
tourism in the mountains, while the critics of tourism label it a model of
dependency as also a threat to Alpine economy. There are good practices of tourism
development in other parts of European upland where tourism forms a unique symbiosis
with agriculture and a farmer is able to supplements his meager income by 5 to 15 percent
through „soft tourism‟. This kind of supplementary income helps sustain farming in
marginal uplands, and perpetuate both, and activity and a landscape. Such successes in
mountain tourism are few and far between, but surely they exemplify that sustainable
tourism development is the only hope in the mountain regions. What is central to the
theme is as an upkeep of landscape, which should be zealously preserved and protected
from tourism and for tourism.

Threat to Heritage

It is pity that mountains and nature have been adversely affected by tourism,
particularly by mountaineers and their long retinue or porters. There are
reports of poorly managed and unguided Himalayan treks and trails, causing
severe damage to sensitive flora and fauna. Spurred by tourism, poaching of
rare species are not uncommon. Similarly, in the developed mountains, skiing
poses threat to environment especially when ski runs are prepared on
agriculturally used lands or even above the limit of natural forest,
environment, establishing tourism and environment compatibility. Such a
development has have to explore on relationship between the natural
resource and the visitor with special regard to its conservation through
sensitive planning and management. Sustainable management of resources
has now been accepted as the only logical way to match the need of
conservation and development.

Dynamic Tourism Ecosystem

Mountains need a „dynamic tourism ecosystem‟ where recreational forms and
structures are evolved on consideration of resources resilience base,
respecting thresholds to avoid or delay saturation risks of environmental
degradation. Thus sustainable tourism development, in its broad sense, is an
exercise in sustainable resource management. The managers should do their
best to avoiding forms of development that may result in irreversible changes
in the ecosystem by adopting 'safe minimum standards' which would ensure
environmental stability in all its uniqueness, self-generation and naturalness.
Tourism, development and ecological issues should be dealt with
simultaneously in decision-making process, both to protect the environment
and to promote economic development.
Searching Sustainable Tourism Strategies

Could there be a way of alliance between the conflicting „target groups‟ and
policy enforcement organizations for an appropriate tourism that serves the
needs of the guest and the hosts? Four perspectives have been suggested;
(a) the tourists, (b) the developers, (c) the providers of services, and (d) the
local perspective, where commonality and consensus of interests may lead to
some kind of righteous tourism aimed at in the philosophy of sustainable
tourism development. This would be unwise to pass off Sustainable Tourism
Development as an empty dream. A few enthusiasts have demonstrated that
tourism shall not take away the „shades of Green‟ from their valleys, meadows
and mountains, that tourism is friendly and must stay with mankind as a
protector, preserver and conserver of the best and the beautiful that this Earth
has offered to mankind. Certainly, this dream shall not be realized with
conventional form of tourism. Some other style of tourism must do away with
this mass tourism that destroys everything so massively. Alternative forms of
tourism have been experimented with fair measure of success in some of the
countries, under different names, such as Green Tourism, Soft Tourism,
Responsible Tourism, Defensive Tourism, Appropriate Tourism, Rural
Tourism, Community-based Tourism, Craft Tourism. There can be many
more names for these alternative forms, but the spirit behind them is most
humanizing, and development of tourism sums up its basics.

      Conserving the natural resource
      Deepening the visitor experience
      Enhancing the social and economic well being of the community

Alternative tourism is most concerned with the scale of development, local
control, product indigenisation, people to people healthy interaction and an
endeavour to revive the lost art of travel. It seeks to reverse the trends from
impersonal mass tourism to establishing congenial relationship between
guests and local hosts.

This kind of concerned tourism seeks to achieve mutual understanding,
solidarity and equality among participants and endeavours to be alternative to
both mass-tourism and rucksack tourism, the latter encourages „eco-freaks‟
who pose threat to environment in their bid to reach the untouched, unspoilt
and primitive. Critics of alternative forms of tourism have doubts about their
economic viability, as so often, these have to depend on outside assistance.
Tourism, enthusiasts are further experimenting by seeking possibilities of
integrating it with mass tourism by reconciling the good in the conventional
Tourism Technologies and Environment

The prime strategy for achieving environmentally sustainable tourism is the
choice of appropriate technology, which should determine nature magnitude,
and scope of tourism. Such technology should match financial, operational
and maintenance requirements with the local capabilities.

Since tourism is a highly competitive business, the developers have a
tendency to opt for hard technologies which, indeed, provide quality
infrastructure, quicken the pace of resort development and swell the volume
of tourist traffic ; these are, however, expensive and have been found
unfriendly to environment. In many cases these have resulted in posing
environmental problems to the local residents. The key to success lies in
selecting methods and models that benefit and minimise costs from
economic, social and environmental perspective. The more the local people
benefit from tourism, the more they will benefit from a commitment to preserve
the environmental tourism planning technology.
 (Source: ENVIS Centre Sikkim on Ecotourism Newsletter, Vol 2. No. 2,

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