The World Conservation Union (IUCN) defines ecotourism as: “… environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features – both past and present) that promotes conservation, has low negative visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations” (IUCN, 1996).
The travel industry defines ecotourism as: “purposeful travel that creates an understanding of cultural and natural history, while safeguarding the integrity of the ecosystem and producing economic benefits that encourage conservation . . . The long-term survival of this special type of travel is inextricably linked to the existence of the natural resources that support it” (Bandy, 1996 quoting: Ryel and Grasse 1991:164). The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as: “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people”.
According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) tourism that involves travelling to relatively undisturbed natural areas with the specified objective of studying, admiring and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals, as well as any existing cultural aspects [both of the past and the present] found in these areas is defined as ecotourism. An optimum number of environment friendly visitor activities, which do not have any serious impact on the ecosystem and the local community and the positive involvement of the local community in maintaining the ecological balance are some of its key elements (UNWTO, 2002i). With very little consensus between the industry, indigenous and local communities and other government and non-government organizations on the definition of ecotourism, it is being been touted by the industry as the wonderful antidote to the development problems of hitherto untouched areas in India. Ecotourism is today the unique selling proposition of the tourism industry and is being used to bring more and more tourists to fragile regions like the forests and coasts.
With nature and culture being the prime attraction it is only logical that the Ministry for Tourism and Culture, state tourism departments and the tourism industry are selling India as an important ecotourism destination. 1. Hypothesis The hypothesis that was considered for the case study was: Newer biodiversity rich areas, under Protected Area status or otherwise, are being rapidly opened for ecotourism. In the absence of coherent policy, regulation and guidelines, current form of ecotourism has impacted biodiversity; lives and governance systems of communities.
This has resulted in loss of rights and benefits arising from use of biological resources to communities. Women are particularly affected as they confront increasing problems of social evils, finding wherewithal from even distant locations and reduced say in matters that affect them. 2. Research questions Based on the hypothesis, the following research questions were formulated: a. What are the areas that have been opened up? b. What is the status of laws, policy and guidelines for ecotourism? c. What are the impacts of ecotourism on biodiversity and community governance? d. What are the impacts on women?
For the purpose of this case study, the research questions that have been taken up pertain to areas that have been opened up for ecotourism, status of laws, policy and guidelines for ecotourism, and impacts of ecotourism on community governance only. 3. Methodology a. Geographical scope The states that were selected for the case study are: i. ii. Andaman & Nicobar Islandsii Chhattisgarh 2 iii. iv. Madhya Pradesh Uttarakhand (earlier Uttaranchal) These states were selected on the basis of being diverse ecosystems with predominantly indigenous populations, which are the selling propositions of ecotourism.
The Andaman Islands are an archipelago situated in the Bay of Bengal and are the home for four primitive tribes that are almost on the verge of extinction – the Great Andamanese, Jarawas, Onges and Sentinelese. Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are located in Central India and comprise of forest ecosystems that contribute significantly to the forest cover and biological diversity of the country. Chhattisgarh is a tribal state and was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2001, both these states are home to indigenous groups like Baiga, Bhil, Gond, Birhor, Munda Korwa, Munda and many others.
Uttarakhand is located in the mountain ecosystems of the Himalayas and the trans-Himalayan hill ranges of the Shivaliks, and forest ecosystems. Uttarakhand is also a tribal state which was created from Uttar Pradesh in 2001. The main indigenous peoples’ groups in Uttarakhand are Bhotia, Buksa, Jannsari, Raji, Tharu and Didihat. b. Research design i. Secondary data The main secondary sources of data that were inter alia examined were: • • Official websites of the respective state governments and Government of India Promotional material and information provided by the Ministry of
Tourism and Culture Government of India and tourism departments of the respective states ii. Primary data • Interviews – This was the main method of data collection administered to the government and to local community representatives. An interview guideline was prepared containing a detailed list of questions and checklist for every department / official being interviewed. Data collected from interviews was documented through notes taken by the interviewers rather than through tape or video recordings as the latter would not have been appropriate with several government officials. Focus group discussions – In order to collective perspectives from local community members, focus group consultations were organised. A discussion guideline was prepared for the conducting the discussions. Data from the focus group discussions has been documented in writing and through audio visuals. 3 • Field observation – Field observation has been another important instrument for collecting qualitative data, especially for socio-cultural and environmental impacts of tourism activity.
At each field site, a considerable amount of time was spent at different locations to observe tourist behaviour, interaction of tourists with local people and the impacts of such interaction. Data recorded through field observation was immediately documented. • Participant observation – Here, members of the research team went as tourists to different sites to observe tourist behaviour, and to get first-hand experience of how local community members viewed and interacted with tourists. Observations were documented through field notes. iii.
Ethical considerations The general principles followed in developing this case study are as follows: • • • all subjects and respondents should take part freely and on the basis of informed consent; ensuring the confidentiality of information and anonymity of names wherever requested; ensuring that data is neither fake nor plagiarised and that results are not falsified. 4. Ecotourism as a Market Based Conservation Mechanism a. Areas that have been opened for ecotourism i. Andaman & Nicobar Islands The Department of Environment & Forests – Andaman & Nicobar Islands Administration has proposed to open up the following islands for ecotourism.
The details of the ecotourism activities are mentioned in the divisional working plans approved by the Supreme Court. The various islands are: North Andamans 1. Saddle Peak 2. Ross Island 3. Kalipur Beach 4. Kalpong hydro power project 5. Ramnagar Beach 6. Karmatang Beach 7. Ray Hill 8. Curlew Island Middle Andamans 13. Long Island 14. Guitar Island 15. Cuthbert Bay 16. Merk Bay 17. Barren Island (live volcano) South Andamans 18. Rutland 19. Wandoor 20. Chidiyatapu 21. Mount Harriet 22. Shoal Bay 23. Constance Bay 4 9. Interview Island 10. Sound Island 11. Stewart Island 12. Nariyal Balu
Apart from the above, the Ministry of Tourism – Government of India has announced an enhancement of private investment from Rs. 5 crore to Rs. 100 crore (equivalent to US$ 1. 1 – 21. 8 million) in 2004 to build super resorts and luxurious hotels in both the island groups of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweepiii; ten islands were identified in Andamans including Havelock and North Passage. The Directorate of Information, Publicity and Tourism, the nodal agency for tourism in the Islands, has also proposed a new ecotourism circuit at Baratang in November 2004iv. The then Lt. Governor Dr.
Kapse had earlier inaugurated eco-huts at Mount Harriet National Park for ‘ecotourists” in July 2004v. ii. Chhattisgarh The state of Chhattisgarh has several ‘virgin attractions’ in protected areas such as Kanger Valley National Park, Barnawapara, Sitanadi, Udanti and Achanakmar Sanctuaries. Mainpat (Surguja), Keshkal valley (Kanker), Chaiturgarh (Bilaspur), Bagicha (Jashpur), Kutumbsar caves, Kailash caves, Tirathgarh falls, Chitrakot falls (Bastar), which “are all exhilarating destinations being promoted for nature and wildlife tourism. Wildlife areas, camping grounds and trekking facilities would be few of the prime attractions”. vi
The policy also states that the endangered Wild Buffalo (Bubalis bubalis) and the even more endangered Hill Myna (Graculis religiosa peninsularis), the state animal and state bird respectively will be protected by ecotourism. Hence ecotourism will help in preserving these and other species of biodiversity. iii. Madhya Pradesh Proposed ecotourism sitesvii 7. 8. 9. Amarkantak and Dindori Forests Dumna Ecotourism Centre, Jabalpur Kathotia Adventure Point The ecotourism sites in Madhya Pradesh are: Existing ecotourism sites 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Kanha National Park Bandhavgarh National Park Panna National Park Pachmari and Satpura Tiger Reserve Pench