Ecotourism is often presented as the savior for wildlife and wild places, providing local communities with financial incentives to preserve nature while also reducing poaching and development pressure. But, lately, questions and concerns on whether rich Westerners jetting around the world really help at all? Environment conservationists fear that it disturbs animals, create demands for new development and, only employ local people in low paying jobs. An analysis on whether ecotourism is a boon or bane to the environment is inevitable in the present context of global climate change.
Tourism in India is probably as old as its 5000 plus year old culture. The country has a large treasure of natural beauty, archaeological and architectural monuments. In addition, there are many hill resorts, beach resorts, mountains, rivers etc. Ecotourism has received much attention in recent years especially within the developing world.
In its simplest terms, ecotourism means management of tourism and conservation of nature in a way so as to maintain a fine balance between the requirements of tourism and ecology on the one hand and needs of the local communities for jobs, new skills, income generating employment and a better status for the people on the other.
Ecotourism generates money from natural environments by encouraging tourists to visit and, during their stay, pay for items like entrance fees, concessions and licenses. Some conservationists consider tourism to be a significant threat to natural areas. But is that true? It depends. However, we have seen and experienced that human interventions have always troubled the ecological system.
The influx of ecotourists can degrade the natural environment the tourists visit. Letting tourists loose in a delicate ecosystem can lead to pollution and impact on the environment in unforeseen ways. One study in a Costa Rican national park found that wild monkeys turned into garbage feeders, becoming familiar with the presence of ecotourists and eating the food and rubbish left behind.
Certainly, the ecological havoc wreaked by tourists in places like the Galapagos (an island in Pacific Ocean and considered as one of the world’s foremost destinations for wildlife-viewing. Its isolated terrain shelters a diversity of plant and animal species, many found nowhere else) is well documented. A fragile ecosystem, animals unafraid of humans and an increasing number of cruise ships has been a recipe for disaster.
One doesn’t have to look hard to see tourists behaving badly in nature. People harass and feed wild bison and monkeys, leave trash strewn across the Himalayas and everywhere they go, demand resorts in places they shouldn’t be and the list is long. And then there’s the whole carbon footprint issue. We all know that flying has tremendous impacts, so can we really justify flying off to some far-off corner of the world to see animals or scenery?
Read the full part of this article in the March issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2016