View Full Version : Eco-Tourism. Is it a Forestry Activity or Non-forestry activity?

Tiger Ramesh
07-06-2010, 10:29 AM
Our parks and protected areas need a lot of resources in managing them.

They need to raise money for management, they need to involve local communities for conservation, they need to create awareness for conservation as well.

Finances: Our parks attract very little allocation from our union / state budgets. Eco-tourism has proven to be a big money earner. MP and Rajasthan will vouch for that.

Local Communities: Responsible Eco-tourism benefits the local communities if they are included. If local communities benefit, then they play a vital role in conservation

Awareness Creation: Children and youngsters are the pillars of tomorrow. It is important for them to understand the impact and pressures faced by parks. Responsible Eco-tourism addresses this issue.

From the above, it is clear that responsible eco-tourism has a key role to play in the conservation of our parks.

Now the question is, is Eco-tourism (the activity) considered as a forestry activity or not? (The typical activities include nature walks, bird watching, treks, jeep/boat based trips, camping, setting up of interpretation centres etc)

It will be great to hear your views on this subject.

Sabyasachi Patra
08-06-2010, 02:51 PM
Unfortunately in India, the two words Responsible and ecotourism can be considered as antonyms.

There are hoardes of tourists, wildlife photographers invading the parks everyday. Does that benefit conservation of that wilderness area?

The amount of money raised by the NGOs for investing in our popular national parks is phenomenal. Money is raised in the name of the same community/poachers rehabilitation etc from various corporates. The situation never seems to change. Ofcourse, that is a different point, but I am trying to say that the so called revenue from tourism is not the only source for protecting a wilderness area.

There are a few responsible operators. Unfortunately, in the absence of laws governing ecotourism, there is no incentive or disincentive to be responsible.

As far as forestry activity is concerned, our forest departments still have the colonial mentality of exploiting the forest. I am sure you would agree that the word exploitation denotes that the exploited party - in this case the forest - is never well off.

Ecotourism can help to a certain extent. However, not in the manner it is practiced at the moment. Despite the supposed to be beneficial effects of increasing awareness, the negatives outweigh the positives.

One may refer to the IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol 2 Issue IV ( http://www.indiawilds.com/diary/indiawilds-newsletter-vol-2-issue-iv ) for a detailed account with best practices from Botswana. Newsletter Vol 2 Issue V details specific examples ( http://www.indiawilds.com/diary/indiawilds-newsletter-vol-2-issue-v )


Lakshminarayanan Nataraja
10-06-2010, 08:17 PM
The pressure on our left over forests is too high and many sanctuaries have already attained the carrying capacity as far as tourism is concerned.

The so called eco-tourism is now vested only with the rich sect of people - people who can afford to spend few thousands per day while the poor sect of people is completely deprived of jungle experience.

More children need to be taken in to jungles and they can be made to walk in the field - children from all schools and not convents alone.

Only when conservation message is reaching the large mass of people - especially those living in the fringes, our efforts can be successful.

Besides, tourism should not be permitted in the core areas. Resort owners should restore area outside buffer and core zones and invite wildlife there.
Adventure tourism - that of able people walking in the game trial in a quiet manner is of no harm.

Steve Lockett
08-07-2010, 01:53 PM
I believe eco-tourism is of benefit, but only as part of a properly managed whole. At present, the system of reserves as set up by Central Government does not provide the proper protection to the animals or habitat.
The idea of 'buffer' and 'core' areas is a simple one, allowing access and a degree of protection. In practise, however, it leaves a zone that is too easily over exploited (the buffer) and a haven that is too easily invaded by poachers and other ne'er-do-wells (the core). It also isolates populations at their most vulnerable time - when they are diminishing rapidly and need to have easy access to other gene pools.

Anyone who wishes to protect an area of forest should be awarded the full protection of State Govt. This would help to establish and further wildlife passage between populations.
Private companies should be encouraged to set up schemes either on the edge of, or just inside 'buffer zones' so long as they set aside a wilderness area and sign up to a code of conduct. This would extend protection and possibly extend the area of wildlife sanctuaries.
'Tribals' must be allowed to remain inside any sanctuary, including the 'core', as they are best placed to nurture the habitat and give warning of illegal activities. They should not be made to live in a modern way, rather they should be encouraged to continue their traditional lives without interference.
Equally, 'tribal' areas must have the same level of protection that is afforded to wildlife. There are too many instances of displacing Adavasi to enable the exploitation of mineral or hydrological 'wealth'. Often, very few benefit from this and people, wildlife and habitat all suffer.

Given what I feel about the framework within which the natural world is protected, I am certain that many forms of eco-tourism can flourish. The problem is that eco-tourism under the present system only adds to the overwhelming pressure that every pristine area is under.

Tiger, you set up successful eco-resorts, did you feel that they were an important contribution to the protection of habitat and wildlife?
Can you help us gain more understanding about the process you had to go through?

I am particularly interested in the role State-level Govt has in ensuring compliance with EIA and planning consultation, and the effect on habitat in general and water catchment in particular. It seems to me that the Indian Constitution and law statutes award plenty of protection to the environment, so long as all due process is carried out. Sadly, the due processes are very rarely carried out and habitat is destroyed every day.

Time for a different way of thinking all round?

Tiger Ramesh
09-07-2010, 03:59 PM
Steve. Thanks for writing. I set up my resorts with clear intention of supporting local communities and thereby removing the pressures from them on the park. I wanted to reduce their dependancy on the park. For example, the two resorts we had, were run completely by the local villagers (total of 150 jobs) except for 6 people who brought management and accounting skills.

150 families got paid above the government recommended pay scales, free medical insurance, retirement and pension benefits, training and learning from Christ College Hotel management faculty, bank accounts etc. None of them were casual employees. All were permanent employees of the company.

They stopped depending on the parks.

That was the starting point. We were going to do more. But we hardly got any support from the Forest Department (State Govenment).

We got lost among the hues and cries of arm chair environmentalists who were against eco-tourism. Cases were filed against our project in Bandipur (which we contested and won in a Supreme Court body).

Twice a week, our jeeps used to traverse the main highway cutting through the park and we used to collect all plastic waste that were found strewn by high way commuters. We used to collect this plastic and dispose the same in a nearby township so that animals don't feed on them. We were asked not to do the work by the Forest Department!!

We were really frustrated.

You are right. All ready there are enough tight laws that are available to protect the environment. But the cost of compliance is much costlier than cost of bribes, hence some don't comply.

My question is, "is responsible eco-tourism is a forestry activity or non-forestry activity"? I am not talking about irresponsible eco-tourism here.

Steve Lockett
10-07-2010, 01:19 AM
Sounds like you were going about it in the right way. What I was trying to get at was: did the Karnataka State Government make you follow all the procedures, as they should have done?

I appreciate it is a little off topic, but it may help others who are thinking along your lines to see what should and could be done to set up eco ventures correctly.

As for your question: do you mean an activity that should purely come under the remit of the Forestry Dept? As opposed to private ventures?

Clearly there are many types of eco tourism, it is not restricted to forest areas, hence a simple answer to your question would be no, or partly. You can have eco tourism in deserts and on top of mountains and under the sea, they are not forestry activities.

Mohan Raj
18-07-2010, 11:03 AM
1. The Definition:
Ecotourism is: "Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." (TIES, 1990)

2. Principles of Ecotourism:
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.

(from http://www.ecotourism.org)

3. Eco-tourism is a forestry activity, if permitted by The Chief Wildlife Warden.

Ramesh, I appreciate your concern for wildlife and local people. Kindly get permission from concerned forest officials to cleanup the highway passing thru the forest areas.

Lakshminarayanan Nataraja
28-07-2010, 08:31 PM
Thanks for the details, Mohan. Good to note that the definition is proper irrespective of whether it is correctly followed or not.

Ravindra Yadav
01-08-2010, 08:15 PM
Dear Tiger Ramesh,
It is really heartening to learn that you are running Wild life resorts by employing local peoples. I am visiting Bandipur, Nagarhole, Mudumalai in September. I will like to meet you and see your Resort. Please give me your phone no., address, web address if any. My E mail Id is ravindrayadavcpp@yahoo.com .



Tiger Ramesh
02-08-2010, 09:37 AM
Thanks for all the positive responses and encouragement.

Mr Yadav.
Kindly check out www.cicadaresorts.com

I am not involved anymore. Their resorts are in Bandipur and Kabini.
Best wishes.