Concept of Eco-Tourism and green tourism and their role in the sustainable development of the State of Himachal Pradesh – HPAS Mains

By | June 15, 2020

Concept of Eco-Tourism:

All nature-based forms of tourism in which the main motivation of the tourists is the observation and appreciation of nature as well as the traditional cultures prevailing in the natural areas (UNWTO), having minimized negative impacts comes under eco-tourism.

Ecotourism must contain three basic elements for it to be complete:

  1. It must provide for environmental conservation.
  2. It must include meaningful local community participation.
  3. It must be viable profitably to enable it to sustain itself.

Advantages of Eco-Tourism: 

The advantages of promoting ecotourism include:

  • benefits to local communities
  • generation of revenue
  • support to the local economy
  • preservation of ecosystem and biodiversity
  • Economic diversification especially in rural and non -industrial area
  • Long term economic stability
  • The tendency for higher expenditure and length of stay
  • Infrastructure development
  • Increase of foreign exchange earnings

The varied natural landscape, rolling pastures, mighty Himalayas, vast flowing rivers, pristine lakes, dense pine forests, and a vivid variety of flora and fauna make Himachal Pradesh a must-visit ecotourism destination.

Bird watching, trekking, eco-trails, nature parks, eco-huts, and camping are some tourism products that shall be developed to promote eco-tourism.

Sustainable Tourism

UNESCO defines sustainable tourism as “tourism that respects both local people and the traveller, cultural heritage and the environment”. Sustainable tourism seeks to provide people with an exciting and educational holiday that is also beneficial to the people of the host country. All tourism activities, of whatever motivation – holidays, business travel, conferences, adventure travel, and ecotourism – need to be sustainable. This approach to tourism is becoming so popular that it is believed it would become ‘mainstream’ within a decade.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of targets relating to future international development. They are created by the United Nations and promoted as Global Goals for Sustainable Development. There are 17 goals, including poverty alleviation, zero hunger, good health, gender equality, affordable and clean energy, decent jobs and economic growth, clear water and sanitation, and responsible consumptions, etc. Given this background, sustainable tourism has possibilities of playing a significant role in the realization of these goals, particularly SDGs 8 and 12.

Goal 8: on the promotion of “sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth”, full and productive employment and decent work for all includes as Target 8.9 “By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products” (Niti Ayog, August 2018).

Goal 12: aimed to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns” includes as Target 12.b to “Develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism which creates jobs, promotes local culture and products” (Niti Ayog, August 2018).

Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, aims at positioning tourism as a major engine for economic growth and harnessing its multiplier effects for employment generation and poverty alleviation in an environmentally sustainable manner. In this light, there is an ardent need to make the current tourism policy comprehensive in a sustainable way. The state of Himachal Pradesh has been proactively working precisely on this.

Sustainable Tourism in Himachal Pradesh

  • Himachal Pradesh is a hill state adorned with the majestic Himalayan range, forests, wildlife, rivers, and traditional communities.
  • Reorganized as the 18th Indian state in 1971, Himachal Pradesh is in the northwestern region of the Himalayas.
  • It is landlocked between Jammu & Kashmir in the north, Tibetan plateau in the west, and Punjab in the east.
  • The state stands apart in terms of its topographic diversity and breathtaking pristine natural beauty.
  • In order to foster economic growth, the reliance on the tourism industry has been observed to deliver positive results.
  • This has been attested by the fact that the number of tourists visiting Himachal Pradesh increased from 6.55 million in 2004 to 19.6 million in the year 2017.
  • A tourism policy that accelerates economic development minimizes social inequality, reduces poverty, conserves tangible and intangible heritage (by making use of state of the art technologies) in a sustainable manner is an immediate requirement.

Sustainable development and Ecotourism

Tourism can play a significant role in sustainable development. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) wish to encourage all countries to make sure that their policies and actions for its development and management fully embrace the principles of sustainability. Likewise, policies to promote sustainable development should take full account of the opportunities offered by tourism. Various international conventions and declarations have put forward principles and guidelines for sustainable tourism and the importance of tourism and its sustainability was underlined at the 2002 World Summit in Sustainable Development. Many countries declare that they are pursuing or wish to pursue, policies for sustainable tourism. Despite this interest, there remains a degree of uncertainty over the scope and priorities for making tourism more sustainable and only partial appreciation of how to put this into practice.

The relationship between ecotourism and sustainable development has become so intertwined, that they are no longer thought to be as separate philosophies. Some mention of sustainability can be found in almost every single piece of literature on ecotourism whether it is economic, social, environmental, or all three combined. Ecotourism, in its purest form, is founded on the same philosophy as sustainable development as well as sustainable tourism. It is important to think of sustainability not only as a goal for ecotourism but perhaps more importantly as the means for achieving that goal. Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement and participate in ecotourism activities should follow the following ecotourism principles: minimize impact, build environmental and cultural awareness and respect, provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts, provide direct financial benefits for conservation, provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people, raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climate Ecotourism is environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature which promotes conservation; it has low negative visitor impact and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations. Ecotourism focuses on local cultures, wilderness adventures, volunteering, personal growth and learning new ways to live on our vulnerable planet. It is typically defined as travel to destinations where the flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions.

Eco-Tourism Societies in Himachal Pradesh: 

Great Himalayan National Park

Located in Kullu district, this National Park is a prime protected area of the country and provides opportunities to the ecotourists to enjoy nature at its best. To be covered entirely on foot, the Park has well-developed eco-treks taking off from an altitude of about 1500 meters to more than 6000 meters. The park has many forest bungalows and tenting sites for night halts. Private guest rooms in traditional houses are also being developed. Prior permission of the park Director is required to visit the park. Local guides and porters are available.

Himalayan Nature Park

 Located at an altitude of 2700 meters and about 18 kilometers from Shimla on the Hindustan-Tibet Road, this Nature Park covers about 100 hectares of prime Western-Himalayan temperate forest with all its floral diversity. The nature park also houses high altitude fauna of the State in near natural habitat and provides the visitors a one-stop opportunity to appreciate Brown Bear, Musk Deer, Yak, Bharal, Sambhar, Ghoral, Monal pheasant and many other animals and birds. The park also offers 3-6 hour guided trek to Mahasu peak and catchment forests and has limited lodging facilities.

Renuka Wildlife Sanctuary

Renuka wildlife sanctuary clothes the slopes around the picturesque Renuka lake in the outer Himalayas with deciduous forest cover. Attractions include ancient temples of rishi Jamdagni, goddess Renuka and Lord Parshuram, a lion safari, a mini zoo and trekking. Boating facilities are available in the lake. Limited lodging facilities are also available.

Eco-Tourism Policies

Himachal Pradesh Forest Department formulated the Eco-tourism Policy during 2001 which was subsequently revised in 2005. The central theme is to decongest and disperse over flowing city tourist destinations and bring the tourists closer to nature and ensure adequate economic return to the State and livelihood opportunities to the local communities.

To fulfill this objective H.P. Ecotourism Society has been constituted with its Headquarters at Aranya Bhawan Talland Shimla (H.P.). It is a registered Society under the Societies Registration Act.

The Society’s apex decision making body is the Governing body headed by Hon’ble Chief Minister, Himachal Pradesh, and Principal Secretary (Forests) as its Member Secretary. The affairs of the Society are administered by an Executive Committee headed by Principal Secretary (Forests) and CCF Eco-tourism as its member Secretary.

The re-Revised Himachal Pradesh Eco-Tourism Policy, 2017

The revised Himachal Pradesh Eco-Tourism Policy, 2017 aims at bringing the wilderness and virgin ecosystems of Himachal Pradesh closer to the visitors and at the same time ensure adequate safeguards and systems for the protection and conservation of these natural resources. By involving local communities, the policy would help in increased livelihood opportunities as well as their involvement in awareness building, protection, and conservation. It also envisages the generation of financial returns which can be ploughed back into proper upkeep and maintenance of the environment. It shall also promote a greater understanding and appreciation for natural and cultural heritage.

Mission

To make Himachal Pradesh a leading Eco-tourism destination with eco-tourism attracting at least 10% of overall tourists visiting the state by the year 2030.

Vision

The vision is to preserve and protect the natural (both flora and fauna) and cultural heritage of Himachal Pradesh, provide opportunities to local people, generate resources for sustainable development, and promote greater understanding and appreciation for this heritage through authentic eco-tourism initiatives. The eco-tourism policy would encourage a partnership between civil society (local community, NGOs, eco-club, academic institutions), as well as private enterprises/business and the state government departments of the forest, tourists, fisheries, Power, PWD, and Jal Shakti.

Main Objectives

  • To provide nature enjoyment & education opportunities to the tourists.
  • To minimize the negative impacts of tourism and promote conservation and the socio-economic development of the region.
  • To enable local communities in managing eco-tourism for optimum economic benefits to them and Involvement of local communities and supporting their livelihood needs by creating their direct stake in the conservation of local culture, ecology, and environment so as to conserve the rich cultural and ecological heritage of the state, so that various benefits from this conservation endeavour, including the benefits by way of tourism, could continue to accrue to generations to follow.
  • To develop organizational and infrastructure facilities for eco-tourism and build the capacity of the eco-tourism managers. To generate revenue for the state.

Implementation Strategy

1. Institutional arrangement

Forest department has created a special purpose vehicle in the form of Himachal Pradesh society (HP ECOSOC) UNDER THE RULE OF SOCIETIES ACT 1860 to assist in delivering the mission and objectives of the policy. HP ECOSOC covers the entire state, it will work with eco-tourism societies at division/ circle level to facilitate PPP initiatives. It will also create awareness and capacity building of the principle stakeholders.

2. Community involvement

Community participation – has also led the way in community-based tourism initiatives, that showcase good practices of revenue generation and sharing. The state has been a frontrunner in the promotion of homestays which ensures tourism benefits directly for communities, and there are various forms of homestay tourism currently in the state. This puts the community at the forefront for the management of tourism in homestays, wetland restoration, agro-tourism, cultural activities that are prime tourist attractions in the state has also been very successful. Tourism stakeholders are also well organised in Himachal and there are strong private investments in this sector which also bolsters the overall state of tourism.

3. Marketing

HPECOSOC shall provide a platform for effective marketing website linkages, which shall provide information for online booking of facilities. Shall be facilitated with organizations/entities/ tour operators/ travel agents/ hoteliers engaged in tourism promotion, print and electronic media should be utilized camps, nature walks, trekking, rest houses should be included under ecotourism by enhancing their infrastructure.

4. Eco-clubs

An eco-club will be created at the state level for the promotion of environment conservation-related activities. Any individual interested in environmental conservation and nature may become a member of the club.

5. Impact assessment studies

Environmental Impact Assessment is the assessment of the environmental consequences (positive and negative) of a plan, policy, program, or actual projects prior to the decision to move forward with the proposed action. Impact assessment studies to evaluate the ongoing projects shall be carried out immediately. Based on that fresh project formulation is proposed by following the same process as already specified for new sites.

Global Tourism Scenario

Global Tourism Scenario Tourism is a socio-cultural and economic phenomenon, which entails the movement of people to countries or places outside of their usual environment for recreational, business, medical, or religious purposes. Tourism also encourages governments to develop and improve local infrastructure, which is equipped to handle tourist influx. Several countries have transformed themselves through tourism and created a global presence in the tourism industry. Tourist movements have spread geographically to reach practically all countries of the globe, becoming for many of them an important economic sector in terms of income generation, foreign exchange earnings and employment international tourist arrivals grew to 1.1 billion in 2014 from 25 million in 1950. The UNWTO estimates that approximately 1 in 11 persons in the world is employed by the tourism industry. As of 2014, the global tourism industry generated USD 7.6 trillion, constituting 10% of the global GDP.

Sources:

  1. HP Tourism Policy 2019
  2. Sustainable Development and Ecotourism in Himachal Pradesh (Sh. Rangilu Ram)
  3. Eco-Tourism Policy 2005, 2016 and 2017

Read also: Environmental concerns of the tourism industry, both positive and negative effects including climate change with reference to Himachal Pradesh

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