The Environmental Impact of Tourism
Tourism and the Environment The term ‘environment’ is a generic concept. It encompasses different contexts including the cultural, social, political and economic. The most often assumed meaning of environment is that of nature. However, we must also remember that how we use nature carries with political, economic and social implications. We know that the impacts of human activities upon nature have implications for its biodiversity and the welfare of individual species. These changes in the environment affect the quality of our lives.
For example, ozone depletion, global warming and pollution bring with them a range of health and lifestyle implications such as increased occurrences of respiratory complaints (due to pollution), flooding and perhaps also the recent earthquakes and tsunami (in Japan and New Zealand). The concerns today also extend to the welfare of non-human fauna and flora. For example, the concerns over animal experimentation and the loss of biodiversity reflect how environmental ethics have become a popular feature of global society from the beginning of the 21st century. 2. The Tourism and Environment Debate in History The OECD
OECD = Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – A collection of 30 member states that use the organisation as a discussion forum to further their aims for a free market system. In the late 1970’s the OECD set out a framework for the study of ‘environmental stress created by tourism activities’. The framework highlighted 4 main categories: 1. Permanent environmental restructuring (major constructions such as highways, airports, resorts) 2. Waste product generation (biological and non-biological waste which can damage fish production, create health hazards and detract from the attractiveness of a tourist destination). . Direct environmental stress caused by tourist activities (destruction of coral reefs, vegetation etc. by the presence and activities of tourists) 4. Effects on the population dynamics (migration, increased urban densities accompanied by declining populations in rural areas etc. ) Agenda 21 In 1992, to add further impetus to a debate that was growing stale, a new maxim emerged at the UN Conference on ‘The Environment and Development’ held in Rio de Janeiro. The maxim asserts that “Only whatever can be sustained by nature and society in the long term is permissible”.
This new impetus was given the title Agenda 21 to reflect the fact that it was a policy statement that was taking the world into the 21st century. So why is it so significant? It is significant because this was the first time in history that a comprehensive program of environmental actions was agreed to be adopted by 182 governments. The issues addressed in Agenda 21 were also not solely environmental as it also included other aspects such as human development and the redressing of imbalance between rich and poor nations.
In a nutshell, Agenda 21 aimed to provide an overall strategy to transform global activity onto a more sustainable course. Now, however, in the 21st century, in spite of the program’s elegance and simplicity, the adoption of this maxim requires enforcement that is still far beyond the reach of most legislative frameworks. Additionally, none of the recommendations made in Agenda 21 were legally binding to the 182 nations that approved its adoption. It is said that the literature on the environmental impacts of tourism is often biased, painting highly negative images of tourism with respect to its environmental impacts.
Today, we’re going to discuss the environmental impacts of tourism, which can be both positive and negative. One could argue that it is not possible to develop tourism without incurring environmental impacts, but it is possible with correct planning to manage tourism development in order to minimise the negative impacts while encouraging the positive impacts. Positive environmental impacts 1. The preservation/ restoration of ancient monuments, sites and historic buildings, such as Great Wall of China (PRC), the Pyramids (Egypt), Taj Mahal (India), Lembah Bujang (Kedah, Malaysia) 2.
The creation of national parks and wildlife parks (such as the Yellowstone Park (USA), Maasai Mara National Reserve (Kenya), Pittier National Park (Venezuela), Fiordland National Park (New Zealand) etc. 3. Protection of reefs and beaches – The Great Barrier reef, Grand Anse (Grenada) 4. The maintenance of forests such as the New Forest (UK)and Colo I Suva (Fiji) 5. Conservation of resources (Mountain Gorilla Project in Rwanda) Negative environmental impacts 1. Hunting & fishing – impact on wildlife 2.
Sand dunes damaged and eroded by over-use 3. Vegetation destroyed by walkers 4. Camp fires destroy forests 5. Ancient monuments disfigured and damaged by graffiti, eroded or taken away by tourists (Byzantine Fort in Paphos, Cyrus – world heritage site subject to pilfering) 6. Construction of tourism superstructure utilises real estate and may detract from the aesthetics (Delphi, Greece) 7. Improper disposal of litter can detract from the aesthetic quality of the environment and harm wildlife (Pulau Tuba, Malaysia) 8.
Erosion of paths to the Pyramids at Giza, Egypt by camels used to transport tourists 9. Dynamiting of Balaclava Bay (Mauritius) to provide a beach for tourist use. 10. Littering pollution (by tourists in Base Camp on Mount Everest, Nepal and in the Caribbean region – 82,000 tons of rubbish by the 63,000 port calls from ships annually. 11. Damage to coral reefs by divers, cruise ship anchors, or through the construction of coastal developments – This will reduce the diversity and population of fish and other creatures which feed off the coral.