Sustainable Tourism in India
“Edged on our chairs with breath held we are watching what India does for Tiger conservation, will India lose its legendary symbol or get it back from the brink of extinction”. This remark was put to me in a travel presentation in London by the travel fraternity and wildlife lovers. It left me stunned, fumbling for an answer, never had I felt so helpless and angry. Why did our country with a great conservation history and dynamic leaders fail, still remains unanswered.
After having pushed tigers to the verge of extinction we have not realized our folly and are still playing the blame game. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a newly constituted body to resolve the tiger crisis, has been no different and has easily shifted the blame to tourism, advising ban of wildlife tourism in the core areas. The idea of seclusion assures that their folly goes unnoticed like in Sanjay N.P., Valmik N.P., Melghat N.P. and others where there are very few tourists and fewer tigers. Wildlife tourism is the foremost reason for conservation willingly or by default by local communities. Wildlife tourism industry is the only direct financial stake holder in wilderness areas. It is a simple tool providing alternate livelihoods, stopping mass migration, making officials accountable and spreading awareness and importance of a healthy environment. Responsibility and accountability should be fixed for proper management of tourism and national parks, unlike currently where true vanquishers have easily washed their hands and use different scientific jargons to protect themselves.
The World’s oldest National Park – Yellowstone in the United States is visited alone by 3 million tourists every year, a little less than the total foreigners who visited India last year. It has sustained large tourist numbers for over 100 years and successfully managed to conserve species like Gray Wolves, Grizzly Bears, Moose and over 57 other mammal species. The NTCA should take up the challenge of improving tourism management in wilderness areas. There is neither a policy for setting up establishments in eco sensitive zones nor a definite plan for future management and growth of tourism. A separate tourism position should be created under the forest department and the forest department should be supported by providing the necessary manpower and resources to curb poaching and habitat loss.
Madhya Pradesh is the leading state with large intact forests and a sustainable tiger population. This is not due to extraordinary conservation work, just a default product of slow development and industrialization. With the current government doing wonders with progress it is bound to push tiger conservation to the back foot. Our honorable Chief Minster and his team should be the front runner for conservation and ensure that the state symbol which gets billions of eyes to sparkle by a mere mention, are not saddened. A recent study done by TOFT (Tour Operators For Tigers), a U.K. based outfit, has concluded that a tiger contributes more than any individual for the Indian economy. If the Tiger is not to be saved for a healthy ecosystem, for sustainable water & natural resources it could surely be saved for Tigernomics – it makes business sense.
Source : The Hitavada Newspaper