Change is the law of nature and is inevitable as we need to use the scenic beauty of our landscape. Trees, rivers, and mountains! Silent canyons, babbling creeks and growing green gardens! If you spend time in the lap of mother nature, you’ll notice that you feel happier out there than in here. At least I do, every time. As a child, I had some semblance of a relationship with nature. Mother nature has always given me the strength and wisdom to solve my problems. In nature, we don’t say ‘how wrong,’ instead, we say, ‘how beautiful.’ Time slows down when you are enjoying nature.
As a tourist or traveler, you must have come across the term Eco-tourism. It has almost become a buzzword lately.
What is Ecotourism?
Ecotourism is a sustainable form of tourism that allows the tourist to see the most pristine form of Mother Nature. It encourages travelers to spend time in the lap of nature. In ecotourism, tourists are indulged more in activities that are less intrusive or destructive toward ecosystem and more sustainable and supportive towards promoting the native culture of the locals.
In other words, it means ‘Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, to enjoy and appreciate nature that promotes conservation, has a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local people.
India is called the land of villages and spells magic. But somehow, I’m unable to see the magic. Nature started losing its charm when the big cities sparkled from a distance promising endless excitement with their clubs and concerts and dizzying shopping opportunities such as hip thrift stores and Tower Records.
Ecotourism helps in community development by providing the alternate source of livelihood to the more sustainable local communities.
Why Eco-Tourism is not a hit?
But the major roadblock in creating durable employment and conservation of environment in India is critical as the country’s march towards becoming a developed nation. The ever-increasing population of the country is reducing the per capita landholding. At the same time, farming is becoming non-profitable due to several factors, including the climactic vagaries, poor implementation of schemes, and lopsided agriculture reforms. New technological innovations are imperative, along with the exploration of new policy options to meet the objectives of ushering India into the comity of the developed world.
To tackle these evils, the concept of eco-tourism can be a game-changer. Considering the scenic diversified beauty of the country’s landscape, eco-tourism can provide a boost for both the creation of sustainable employment opportunities as well as conservation of our forests and environmental resources.
The question is like a seed planted in fall that would emerge months later into something incredible and nourishing. By just asking the question, without consciously realizing it, I had set an intention. Keeping in mind community development and to help local villagers, I started Mangala Heritage Home, which is a bed-and-breakfast in Thirupugalur. I restored an old bungalow, preserving its heritage and architectural nuances and converted it into a cozy, tourist destination.
Founded with the idea of eco-tourism, stays at Mangala include tours to the local pottery and weaving villages. That has led to increased income sources through foreign tourists in foreign currencies. The food prepared in Mangala’s kitchen is sourced from local farmers, and all the employees of the Home are local.
The retreat brings together people of different genders and races and is an inclusive space. By exposing tourists to local food, it has created a curiosity and thus more sales of local ingredients. Mangala has been serving the Thirupugalur village population for more than 10 years.
What is the need for Ecotourism?
Eco-tourism has emerged as one of the most important sectors of the international tourism industry. The United Nations General Assembly has designated 2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism (IYE). The IYE offers an opportunity to review ecotourism experiences worldwide, to consolidate tools and institutional frameworks that ensure its sustainable development in the future.
Apart from numerous benefits of eco-tourism such as building environmental and cultural awareness, provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts, direct financial benefits for conservation, preservation of wildlife and animal’s natural habitat, development of remote areas surrounding. The one benefit which particularly got me into this incredible concept of eco-tourism is bringing the local tribal community into the spotlight and help them generate revenue by creating local employment. That is why Mangala Heritage Home is an initiative, close to my heart.
Eco-tourism empowers the local community as guardians of local natural capital, which in itself can lay effective control on the consumption patterns, ensuring the long-term sustainability of the area. It is a collaborative effort, and the government must take steps to ensure revenue retention by regulating foreign investment and by encouraging local investment and employment in lodging, guide services, and other ventures.
Ecotourism gains momentum in India –
India is one of the most diverse countries in the world. That said, from lush green forest of Cherrapunjee, from the Himalayas to deep blue beaches of South, India throughout the decade has been a favorite ecotourism destination. A well organized and strategically evolved eco-tourism can significantly add to the economy at the local and regional levels, and set off a chain of employment generation, the well-being of the people and ultimately healthy development of rural areas at par with urban areas.
Let eco-tourism lead our economic progress of our country’s local communities and environmental conservation simultaneously. It is a step in the direction in keeping with the Prime Minister’s vision of cleanliness and resource conservation for the economic development and propagation of tourism.