BENGALURU: “Saving the tiger seems to be only focus. We need to move eco-tourism away from tigers,” said Dilip Kumar PJ, former director general of forests and special secretary, Union ministry of environment and forests.
Speaking at a consultation on Karnataka’s eco-tourism policy, Dilip said: “Ecotourism today seems to be about going to pristine forest areas and having a gala time. Some tourists even play loud music, thereby disturbing the wild animals. We need to provide visitors other forms of enjoyment like nature walks, treks and farm visits.”
The event saw stakeholders, including wildlife experts, entrepreneurs, resort owners, NGOs and bureaucrats, discuss ways to ensure better forest management. Introducing activities like treks and eco walks, and exploring new destinations will help, they said.
CB Ram Kumar, managing director, Our Native Village, Bengaluru, said over-exploitation of destinations can be avoided by monitoring visitors. “We can’t stop people from entering forests but we should be able to manage them,” he added.
Need better preparation to tackle fires
Lack of life-saving facilities and guards is putting at risk lives of thousands of tourists who visit prominent ecotourism destinations in the district.
Despite the continuing incidents of deaths due to drowning, cautionary boards to prevent entry of tourists to dangerous locations are yet to be put in place.
Seven persons, mostly youngsters, have lost their lives after falling into trenches in trekking areas close to Kakkayam and Peruvannamoozhi dam site in a short span of time. Even people who knew swimming could not save themselves after they fall into water-logged trenches. “Most of the dangerous passages are ignored by tourists who are new to the location and do not have any access to information on the dangerous topography,” says V. George, a resident of Koorachundu.
Beautiful but be warned
Kariyathumpara, one of the prominent ecotourism centres in the region known for its scenic beauty, witnessed the death of youth due to drowning on Friday.
Though some fencing works were done in the area to discourage tourists’ entry to unsafe locations, a guard to desist tourists from entering the dangerous sites was needed, people in the area said.
There is also the lack of facilities to provide basic life support in emergency situations. Tourists who are rescued have to depend on local taxi services from distant locations to take them to hospital. Panchayat authorities say an emergency service vehicle posted in the area could save a number of lives.
Travelling light can have heavy costs.
A tourist flying economy class from Britain to Kenya and back generates around a tonne of carbon emissions, according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
No matter how many times he reuses his towels or sits on a composting toilet when he is there, he could never hope to offset the burning of all that jet fuel.
Does that mean the very notion of “sustainable tourism” is an oxymoron?
The phrase has three possible meanings. The first is ecological. Given the contribution that transport, especially by air, makes to global warming, on this definition it is almost guaranteed to fall short.
The only truly sustainable holiday would be camping in the back garden eating berries, says Harald Zeiss of the Institute for Sustainable Tourism at Harz University in Germany.
The second is social. Ideally, when cultures meet and gain in mutual understanding, the long-term benefits will be intangible, but real.
The final one is economic. Tourists who step off the beaten track have a chance to help lift the poor out of poverty and encourage them to preserve their environments for financial gain.
The question is how much weight to give to each. According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), a United Nations agency, 1.1 billion international trips were made in 2014, a 4.4 per cent increase on the year before.
As popular destinations become overcrowded, more people seek places that remain comparatively unspoilt. But pristine wildernesses don’t stay pristine for long once they are on the holiday trail. The paradox of sustainable tourism is that it can be “both a destroyer of nature and an agent for its conservation”, notes Andrew Holden of Bedfordshire University in Britain.
Keeping resorts small, and perhaps even temporary, can help resolve that paradox of conservation.
Maurice Phillips and Geri Mitchell opened Sandele, an eco-resort, in Gambia in 2008. Locals are too often persuaded to sell their land to developers for less than it is worth, says Phillips, and villages can vanish once the hotels go up.
Instead, he leased the land for Sandele from villagers, and employs them in the resort. When the lease runs out in 20 years’ time, the property will revert to locals, who should by then have the skills to manage it.
The pair also run courses for locals, including on how to make “rocket stoves” that require very little wood for fuel, thereby reducing deforestation.
Those on larger scale ecotourism packages may be doing good in other ways. Concentrating large numbers of visitors in a single location increases their local impact – which can be for the better.
If a resort buys local food, says Zeiss, or invests in renewable energy generation that can be used by those who live nearby, then the surrounding area can receive a boost.
But hotels must seek ways to mitigate their negative effects. Though signs suggesting that guests can help “save the planet” by reusing their towels overstate the case, waterguzzling is one of the biggest evils of mass tourism.
An analysis by Thomas Cook, a large holiday firm, suggests that on average each tourist around the world accounts for around 350 litres of water per day by showering, using the swimming pool and the like – which rises to 6000 litres when indirect use such as food production is added. In Greece, for example, each tourist directly uses around three-fifths more water than a local.
Being more frugal with water can boost comanies’ profits. TUI, another big travel company, says it saved €2.2 million ($3.5 million) in 2014 by cutting energy and water use at 43 of its hotels.
But often it is the guests themselves who kick against energy-saving initiatives. To stop patrons leaving lights and airconditioning on when they are out, many hotels have keycards that control the electrics in rooms.
Yet some report that guests override the system by inserting a business card into the control slot before heading out, rather than waiting to recharge portable devices or put up with a stuffy room for a few minutes on their return.
Overall, the benefits of sustainable tourism outweigh the harms, thinks Dirk Glaesser of UNWTO. And Zeiss argues that the most unnecessary flights are taken not by tourists but by businessfolk who fly abroad for a toe-touch meeting that could easily have been replaced by a videocall, and then fly home the same day.
But it is unclear how many such trips actually occur. Executives already have an incentive to avoid unnecessary business travel – it is less fun than the frivolous sort.
The Cape Floral Kingdom
Most of South Africa’s vineyards lie in the Cape Floral Kingdom, the world’s smallest yet richest plant kingdom. Recognised as a global biodiversity hot-spot, and with World Heritage site status since 2004, the Cape Floral Kingdom and its two main vegetation types, namely fynbos and renosterveld, has come under increasing threat due to urban development, agricultural expansion and invasive alien species.Unlike fynbos, which happily grows in poor soil conditions, renosterveld prefers the sort of fertile, fine-grained soils that are also ideal for cultivating wheat and vines, placing this natural vegetation under even greater threat of being wiped out.Since 80% of the Cape Floral Kingdom is privately owned, it has become obvious over the years that landowner participation in the conservation process is imperative.In 2004, with a mere four percent of pristine renosterveld left untouched and much of the Cape Floral Kingdom’s lowland fynbos ecosystems under threat, the wine industry developed a conservation partnership with the Botanical Society of South Africa, Conservation International and the Green Trust, which led to the establishment of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative.
Biodiversity and Wine Initiative
In a nutshell, the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI) aims to minimise the loss of threatened natural habitats, as described above, and contribute to sustainable wine production through better land management practices on farms.In the past, individual members of the BWI have worked hard to establish conservation management plans for their land. While they have done great things in raising the profile of biodiversity conservation and eco-tourism, many of them are working in isolation.To put the widespread support of the BWI in perspective, there are over 150 accredited members. Members contract to conserve a minimum of two hectares of natural or restored vegetation on their land, while champion members (of which there are currently 15) are those who have established a full conservation management plan and have committed to conserving at least 10% of their natural land area.In 2008, conservation history was made when the conservation footprint in the winelands exceeded the vineyard footprint for the first time. What this means is that in less than four years, the wine industry has succeeded in setting more area aside for long term conservation than is currently planted under vineyard.With this achievement, South Africa is leading the world in the conservation of biodiversity in this environment. It also illustrates the industry’s commitment to protecting our unique natural heritage.
Conservancies joint eco-tourism activities
Right now, one of the most exciting emerging trends in eco-tourism in the Western Cape is the way in which wine regions are getting involved by establishing conservancies and developing joint eco-tourism activities, drawing on the network of producers within the same area and pooling their resources.The result is of far greater benefit to the individual, while also raising the profile of the entire region.Engaging with environmentally aware travellers has never been more fashionable or more important. By teaming up with their neighbours, producers are no longer competing for individual attention and business but are rather maximising what’s on offer in terms of accommodation, entertainment and diversions within their region. This not only keeps visitors in the area for longer but also heightens awareness.BWI is focusing on assisting the cooperation of individual landowners to form regional conservancies, says Inge Kotze, BWI project coordinator.
World’s first biodiversity wine route
A fine example of this is the Green Mountain Eco-Route, the world’s first biodiversity wine route, incorporating the area around the Groenland mountain and including Bot River, Elgin, Grabouw, Houw Hoek and Villiersdorp.Within easy driving distance of Cape Town, the scenic beauty of the route is ideal as a weekend getaway. Visitors may choose from mountain biking, hiking, luxury farm accommodation, local produce markets, restaurants and wedding venues, not to mention exceptional wine tasting opportunities at participating BWI member farms (Paul Cluver, Beaumont Wines and Oak Valley to name a few).Paul Cluver, in partnership with Slowine, has also introduced a biodiversity trail around the Groenland mountain. The “Take a Hike” five-day hiking trail brings you up close and personal with the natural beauty of participating farms and wine estates, some of which provide overnight accommodation facilities.
The Darling Wine Route
Darling, again less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town, is the first wine producing district to be awarded BWI membership status as a district, with all individual farms, including Cloof, Burghers Post, Groote Post, Ormonde and Darling Cellars, achieving accreditation.The Darling Wine Route offers numerous attractions, from glorious wildflower displays in the spring to guided game drives and walks.Rocking the Daisies is an annual music and lifestyle festival held in October. Held at Cloof Wine Estate and endorsed by the World Wildlife Fund, its motto is suitably eco-friendly: “play hard, tread lightly”.
Groote Post has recently celebrated 10 years of wine making, has a long history in conservation and hopes to become a BWI “champion” in the near future. It was one of the driving forces in establishing the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve, which incorporates the Groote Post farm and stretches from the Milnerton lagoon to Langebaan.Groote Post is home to 2 175 hectares of conservation worthy natural vegetation, including the endangered Swartland granite renosterveld, Swartland shale renosterveld and Atlantis sand fynbos.Eco-tourism opportunities on the farm include wine tasting, Hilda’s Kitchen (a country restaurant named after local cook Hilda Gonda Duckitt), nature walks, game drives to view the farm’s many antelope, and excellent bird-watching. The farm also holds great appeal as part of the famous West Coast spring flower route.
Biodiversity and Wine Walks
In the Helderberg Basin, the Schapenberg Sir Lowry’s Conservancy recently launched its Biodiversity and Wine Walks (“Walks for Wine”) in the Sir Lowry’s Pass area.Participating in the project are six wine farms, namely Waterkloof (wine tasting and a smart new restaurant is on offer here), Onderkloof (with a tea garden), Mount Rozier, Journey’s End, Wedderwill, and Da Capo together with other landowners over whose properties the walks will traverse.The aim is to restore and preserve the land within the Schapenberg Sir Lowry’s Conservancy identified by the City of Cape Town as critical and irreplaceable biodiversity corridors. A large part of this area was ravaged by devastating fires in February 2009.The guided walks follow these biodiversity corridors, educating the public as to their importance while raising funds towards their restoration and preservation.
Greater Simonsberg Conservancy
Some 24 landowners around the Simonsberg have joined forces and established The Greater Simonsberg Conservancy in an attempt to save the Cape Floral Kingdom.The Delvera Agri-tourism Centre is a focal point of the Conservancy, and offers retail therapy (from olives and ceramics to fashion and wool), a choice of restaurants, a plant nursery, activities for kids and very well organised outdoor pursuits including walking, hiking, birdwatching, and mountain biking (Delvera is also the headquarters of Dirtopia Trail Centre).Particularly popular are the full-moon hikes each month. Hikers walk to the top of Klapmutskop, where there is an indigenous yellowwood forest and wraparound view of False Bay, Table Mountain, Franschhoek and Paarl.There are many more examples of wine farms joining forces to protect their heritage. For BWI’s Inge Kotze, “it’s incredibly rewarding to see members progressing from individual membership to compliance at a district level, demonstrating how this project is all about action on the ground through the ongoing dedication and commitment to conserving our unique Cape winelands”.
The Alternative Winelands Tour
Dreamcatcher is a unique organisation that focuses exclusively on community-based tourism in South Africa. It was established 25 years ago with the aim of empowering local people, in particular women, through tourism.The Alternative Winelands Tour, facilitated by Dreamcatcher, offers a heart-warming and educational alternative to the mainstream Cape Winelands experience.The tour features insights into the lives of labourers who worked the land during establishment of the Western Cape’s wine estates, enabling visitors to learn about the challenges of hostel and farm life and how the community has developed to present day.The tour visits wine estates that have demonstrated a commitment to employees (such as providing access to land and technical assistance to start their own wine label), and features a unique opportunity to prepare (and sample!) traditional food during a cook-up with the “Kamammas” (local women from the area).According to Jennifer Seif, Executive Director of Fair Trade Tourism South Africa, The Alternative Winelands Tour “is an excellent example of professionally organised community-based tourism,” opening a window on the lives of ordinary South Africans “through food, story-telling, wine, music and truly South African hospitality at its best.”The tour communicates the diversity and majesty of the Cape Winelands through sight-seeing, wine-tasting and personal interaction with farm workers and community members who open their homes to guests.The involvement of the Dreamcatcher Foundation ensures that tourism revenue is ploughed back into community and enterprise development programmes, so the tour is not only enjoyable and educational, but also sustainable.
Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom says the new Stony Point Eco-Centre in Betty’s Bay, in the Western Cape, is an important asset to tourism which will contribute towards efforts to conserve endangered species.
The eco-centre, situated alongside the On The Edge Restaurant, will also go a long way in benefiting local communities through job creation.
The Minister said the project was a perfect example of how social, economic and environmental responsibility can come together to create a workable and sustainable solution.
“This is a community project and the leadership of the community is central to the success of the project.
“When we launch a project, it is something that deserves a celebration. There are years of hard work that go behind a project that may seem small but are significant to our country. We have got good things to tell the world and we must tell it,” he said.
The launch of Stony Point is part of government’s National Imbizo Focus Week which is a platform for political principals to articulate messages around the priorities of government as outlined in the State of the Nation Address.
Minister Hanekom said it was important for government to invest in projects like Stony Point as it will, in the long run, contribute to domestic and international tourism.
Stony Point was in the past used as a whaling station, which Minister Hanekom said was an unsustainable practice.
Johan West, the chairperson of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve Company, said the area held huge potential for eco-tourism.
He said of the 11000 marine species that are known around the world, 3500 were endemic to the area. The area also has 1400 plant species per square kilometre, making the area one of the most bio diverse place in the world.
Stony Point Peninsula is adjacent to the Betty’s Bay Marine Protected Area and forms part of the Overstrand Hope Spot. The Overstrand coast is home to an important seabird colony which includes five endangered species.
“I am glad that government invested in this area and this project will benefit people from this area,” said West.
The project was funded by the national Department of Tourism through the Expanded Public Works Programme, which is one of government’s programmes aimed at providing poverty and income relief through temporary work for the unemployed.
It was developed in partnership with the Mooiuitsig Community Trust. The Trust holds the commercial rights to manage the eco-centre and the restaurant.
The On The Edge restaurant is staffed by members of the nearby Mooiuitsig community, who underwent training prior to the opening.
As part of the project, a parking area, paving and walkways, as well as ablution facilities were built. This is expected to enhance the experience of tourists.
About 70 members of the community were provided with jobs and skills training during the eco-centre and restaurant construction phase. Upon completion, the workers were all able to find work.
Solly Fourie, head of Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism, said any successes of tourism in the province were celebrated as they contributed to the region’s economy.
He said the project was a clear job creator and will be a vehicle for small and medium enterprises to participate in the local economy.
“Tourism has been elevated as one of the 3rd growth drivers in the Western Cape.
“Any development within the tourism space carries the full support of the Western Cape government.”
Source: All Africa
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We know that protected areas like national parks and wildlife reserves are beneficial for protecting biodiversity and combatting climate change. But often it’s difficult to translate these benefits into monetary value. Protected areas also benefit the many people who visit them, and in turn those people spend money on things like entrance fees, tours, and accommodation. Calculating this economic value may be key to keeping these areas protected or establishing new ones, and to help compare the long-term value of protected areas to extractive industries like logging, mining or drilling for oil.
A new study published in the open access journal PLOS Biology attempted to calculate the global value of protected areas in terms of ecotourism, as well as the total number of visits per year protected areas receive.
The study estimates that protected nature areas around the world receive 8 billion visits per year. Yes—that’s a staggering number, with more than one visit per person on earth. Yet the model is likely to be quite conservative, since it excludes protected areas smaller than 10 hectares, marine protected areas, Antarctic areas, and areas where tourism is discouraged.
The authors write that some major national estimates support their finding, with an estimated 2.5 billion visits per year to protected areas in the United States and over 1 billion visits per year to China’s National Parks. Estimated visits per protected area were highest in North America and lowest in Africa.
The researchers then calculated how much these 8 billion visits are worth, and estimated that direct spending comes to $600 billion US per year.
“Our US $600 billion figure for the annual value of protected area tourism is likely to be an underestimate—yet it dwarfs the less than US $10 billion spent annually on safeguarding and managing these areas,” said Dr. Robin Naidoo of World Wildlife Fund, one of the study’s authors, in a press statement.
The study also suggests that a lot more could be invested in protecting wildlife areas, and with our current rapid rate of extinction, that investment is more than necessary. “Through previous research, we know that the existing reserve network probably needs three to four times what is current being spent on it,” Naidoo said.
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Earlier this year a team of students from the University of Technology in Trondheim designed a very sustainable hut as part of a design- and building workshop. They were assisted by Rintala Eggertsson Architects and several others. The international seminar that the workshop was part of was focused on the future of eco-tourism in the Western Ghats region in India. And the main purpose of it was to find sustainable solutions, which would benefit both the local population as well as help preserve the environment in the region.
To solve this problem, the huts the design team proposed would be built using only locally sourced materials and renewable energy sources. This has the multi-faceted purpose of creating a small footprint, involving the community in the building efforts, simplifying the construction and ensuring that maintenance of the buildings is easy and feasible in the long run.
The placing of the huts follows the local building tradition, namely a cluster of houses placed around a central, shaded courtyard that serves as a gathering spot. There is room for a couple of more houses next to already existing dwellings, or more could be built to form another cluster of buildings with it’s own courtyard. Also, more than one of these houses can be added together and create an even more urban setting, situation and space permitting, of course.
The hut proposed by the design team also makes it possible for the local population to take part in environmentally conscious tourism. By renting the huts out they will make a profit, but it will not interfere with their traditional culture and lifestyle, as much as a more modern hotel would.
Each hut is designed to function completely off-the-grid. They are all fitted with roof-top mounted solar panels, which is capable of taking care of the occupants’ energy needs. There is also a composting latrine, which produces enough biogas for one household. The huts are located in Karnataka, India.
Source: Jeston Green
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Tuesday that its tigers had increased by 30% over four years, a major conservation success story. The country is home to an estimated 70% of the world’s tigers and while the global total has been declining, India’s population rose from 1,706 in 2011 to 2,226 presently. The country’s tigers face many pressures stemming from rapid economic development, especially habitat loss and poaching. The upside, however, is that ecotourism is boosting India’s economy and saving this endangered animal, at least, in the process.
Wildlife tourism is still a small portion of overall tourism in India, but it is one of the fastest-growing at about 15% per year. The Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests cited several causes for the upswing in tiger numbers, such as the establishment of a Special Tiger Protection Force, and “efforts to control poaching and initiatives to minimize human-animal conflict and encroachment.” Conservation may have a priceless inherent value, but the tangible economic effects that ecotourism bring give it real staying power. Tens of thousands of local jobs are supported, not just as tour guides or in hospitality, but in many associated industries where the largely foreign clientele has shown a demand for local, eco-friendly food, transportation, and services.
In the absence of tiger tourism, these jobs and communities with little alternatives would collapse—as almost happened in July 2012, when the Supreme Court banned all forms of tourism in the tiger-breeding, or “core,” areas of their sanctuaries. While the decision was made to compel the state governments to set up buffer zones around the core areas pursuant to previous legislation, it raised loud opposition from tour operators and conservationists. Besides the drop in tourist bookings and local job losses, the measure would also allow poachers greater maneuverability, free from the scrutiny of tourists and guides. The ban was lifted in less than three months, to great relief, but visitors are restricted to the outer 20% of the formerly forbidden core areas in order to strike a balance between responsible ecotourism and harmful intrusion.
Now different Indian states are vying to boast the largest number of tigers within their boundaries as a way of attracting tourists. Madhya Pradesh’s tourism and culture minister said in late December that losing the formal tag “tiger state” to rival Karnataka after a 2010 wildlife census had affected the state’s tourism sector negatively. But the state is trying hard to win it back, placing tiger conservation in the same league as simultaneous initiatives like improving air connectivity, setting up 16 tourism zones, and other public-private partnerships.
The other key for long-term sustainable tiger conservation encouraged by the government is local public participation in the management of reserves. The Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala is renowned for just that, with 75 “eco development communities” established outside its perimeter. Such committees help with forest protection and generate revenue through other projects during the tourism off season. Expect India’s tigers to keep increasing.
Source: Blouin News
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