India and Nature: Ecotourism Part 2

For my second blog post I will be exploring the vast and unique terrain of India and the implementation of ecotourism within the varied natural environment. India has a wide array of endangered flora and fauna, thus I will be discussing the importance of conservation within India and how ecotourism is growing in popularity within India because of this. There is also a need to address, as I began to in my first blog post, the complications and criticisms regarding implementation of ecotourism specifically within India.

Tourism within the developing world depends heavily on “biodiversity,” making India’s “exceptionally varied climate” a “golden star on the Tourism map of the world” (Chapter 3 77). Another notable attraction for tourists, aside from the natural beauty of India, is the ancient and intriguing cultures residing within the country. With multiple state-recognized languages and religions there is room for massive amounts of human diversity within the urban and rural spaces of India. Hinduism and the philosophies that have been produced through Hinduism are very influential within Indian culture. Moksha is the Hindu concept of “reaching Nirvana and becoming one with the universe,” (Sinha) this concept of being in sync with all things in the world is a key aspect of Indian culture. The drive to be one with the world applies directly to the ancient ideals of one’s relationship with nature. With this being said “the Indian tradition has always taught that, humankind is a part of nature” and that humans must “look upon all creation with the eyes of love and respect” (ETI). For centuries “nature worship and conservation ethics have been an inseparable part of Indian thought and tradition,” (ETI) making the growing global environmental concern a major concern for not just India’s environment but also India’s culture. In the face of major global environmental issues, India’s need for sustainable environmental preservation is more prominent than ever.

The Indian terrain houses some of the world’s most beautiful natural sites and is sought after by tourists from all around the world because of this. The mass diversity of India’s wildlife spans “over 400 species of mammals, 1200 birds, 450 reptiles, 200 amphibians, and 2500 fish species” (Ramchurjee 1517). India’s “topography boasts” a large number of “rare and endangered species” due to India’s history of poaching, but many of these endangered species are now protected within “80 national parks and 441 sanctuaries in India”(Eco Tourism in India ETI). Among these animals is the Bengal Tiger, which has faced a long legacy of being hunted and poached into near extinction. The preservation of this species is vital in India as “India houses three-fourths of the world’s tigers in its Tiger Reserves” (Chapter 3).

Tigers along with many other animals native to India are “today threatened by circumstances of human creation” as their habitats are being destroyed by an “over dependence of the population on forest resources” (Ramchurjee 1517-18). The dependence on forest resources springs from the growing industrialization occurring within present day India. The Indian government carried out “economic reforms in 1991” that were similar to the economic reforms China made “30 years previously,” this has lead to great industrial and economic growth for India in recent years (Chandra). Industrialization has led to huge amounts of pollution and environmental issues that are negatively impacting natural habitats and wildlife within India (Chandra). Part of the growing Indian economy is based on the increasing tourism industry in India, as the declining global environment makes the natural habitats and wildlife even more rare and desirable for tourists.

The tourism industry “is one of the fastest growing sub-sectors” of the economy in India, as “ecotourism, a new form of tourism, has been gaining wild popularity in Kerala over the last two decades” (Correya 113). This region of India “can be projected as an Ecotourism Zone in the true sense” as it is home to Thenmala “the first planned ecotourism destination in India” (Correya 113). There are “severe threats facing agricultural and traditional sectors” of the Indian economy, meaning ecotourism is increasingly “considered as one of the sectors which can drive the Kerala economy to the pinnacle of socio-economic development” (Correya 113). Ecotourism could potentially provide innovative ways to engage “wildlife, conservation efforts, [and] socio-economic” (Ramchurjee 1517) pursuits in India. Though it seems that ecotourism is an ideal way in which all parties involved in the tourism industry can benefit and maintain the environment, this is easier said than done. While the “popularity of ‘ecotourism’ has skyrocketed” there has been a growing concern with the concept remain[ing] poorly understood and much abused, particularly in India” (Banerjee 27).

As ecotourism is a moderately young sector of the tourism industry, planning and implementation of ecotourism is not always ideal. Main concerns about the implementation of ecotourism in India revolve around a failure to act on the “four principles that must be satisfied for genuine ecotourism: minimization of environmental impacts, generation of funds for conservation, benefits to local communities, and education of visitors” (Banerjee 27). When these principles are not met, ecotourism becomes a falsely positive form of regular tourism that receives the praise of environmental and community preservation, without actually accomplishing anything. New ecotourism sites “tend to be poorly planned, with the infrastructure and management inadequate[ly]” (Banerjee 27) fulfilling the environmental or communal needs of the locals. By allowing ecotourism sites to be “uncontrolled and unregulated” many of India’s prevalent issues as a nation are increased. Pollution, disturbance of wildlife, and environmental harm is continued in supposedly protected areas if ecotourism is not planned and considered fully (Ecotourism Risks).

The global local divide is a large issue with the implantation of ecotourism in India. Without proper planning the socio-economic growth generated by the tourism industry “will be confined to the immediate community surrounding the tourist destination resulting in islands of affluence in a sea of poverty” (Correya 114). This further divides the global prosperity of the tourism industry from the poverty seen in many areas of India. One of the main goals of ecotourism is to involve local communities in the industry and create “economic benefits for local people” (Correya 113). This local involvement has not occurred fully, and is having difficulty being implemented in ecotourism sites. Ecotourism must contribute to the preservation of the environment and wildlife directly, but also “indirectly by providing revenue to the local community sufficient for local people to sustain themselves” (Correya 115) and their community in which the ecotourism is occurring.

Another issue with tourism and ecotourism is the “forceful evacuat[ion]” of local populations “from the protected areas” (Correya 114) in which tourism sites are constructed. Unplanned ecotourism is “thereby denying them accessibility to resources” (Correya 114). The displacement of local populations in order to create the infrastructure needed to house and accommodate tourists around the protected areas is a violation of human rights. This is an issue that the tourism industry has generated and should be considered by those hoping to implement ecotourism as a means for protecting and engaging the environment and local communities. There is a need to address the planning of infrastructure and preservation sites with the local communities that will be influenced by the creation of the ecotourism sites. Again the root of many of the issues with ecotourism centers on “a need to accentuate ecotourism development, management and promotion” (Ramchurjee 1518) in order to better plan sites according to the principles of ecotourism.

Ecotourism in India and around the world must be considered from all sides. There is a growing need to address the degradation of the environment and the depletion of wildlife in India that ecotourism could positively contribute to. But we must consider that with this new sector of tourism, comes new issues that will take time and innovation to improve. The planning and implementation of ecotourism in India must be given more thought and consideration of local communities and their access to resources, as well as their ability to benefit economically from the presence of ecotourism in their communities. While ecotourism has come a long way and is constantly being revised and reconsidered by the International Ecotourism Society, there is still a long way to go in order to meet the principles of ecotourism fully on actual sites. In theory ecotourism is a very positive way in which the tourism industry can contribute toward the sustainability of the environment, but there is still a lot of work to be done in order to see fully functioning ecotourism in India.

My research regarding ecotourism in India is continued in my capstone for Peace and Justice Studies and will be extended this summer as I participate in ecotourism on the Himalayan trail in India. I will continue to consider the tourism industry and its efforts to go eco-friendly as I experience this first hand. I hope that you have enjoyed my series of blog posts on this topic and have been able to grapple with the complex relationship between the global and local divide and environmental justice in consideration of ecotourism in India.

Sources consulted:

Banerjee, Abhijit. “Tourism in Protected Areas: Worsening Prospects for Tigers?”

Economic and Political Weekly 45.10 (2010): 27-29. JSTOR. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.

Chandra, Siddarth. “India.” Ecology of the Mountains: Pre-Departure Meeting.

Michigan State University, East Lansing. 22 Apr. 2016. Lecture.

“Chapter 3: Importance of Ecotourism in India.” (n.d.): n. pag. ResearchGate. Web. 25

Apr. 2016.

Correya, Titus, and Jacob Robins. “Practice of Ecotourism in Kerala’s Tourism

Destinations: Some Emerging Concerns.” International Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Systems 4.1 (2011): 112-34. ProQuest. Web. 1 May 2016.

“Eco Tourism in India.”, Eco Tourism Guide, Nature Friendly Tourism, Ecotourism in

            India. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2016.

“Ecotourism Risks and Benefits – Dr.Hema Somanathan | India Video.” YouTube

Indiavideodotorg. YouTube, 21 Apr. 2014. Web. 01 May 2016.

Ramchurjee, Nichola Anastasia. “Impacts of Ecotourism in Rajiv Gandhi National

Park (Nagarhole), Karnataka.” Environment, Development and Sustainability 15.6 (2013): 1517-25. ProQuest. Web. 1 May 2016.

Sinha, Yoganand. “Psychological Anthropology 423.” Michigan State University. 20

Apr. 2016. Lecture.

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