Archive for the ‘India’ category

This Week in EcoTourism News

August 28, 2016

An article that I recently shared pointed out how purchasing experiences brings more happiness to individuals than purchasing things.  Purchasing a home, clothing, cars, and other material goods doesn’t come close to the happiness boost that experiences such as travel, dining with friends or family, or nature does.

Spending time in nature, while minimizing impact on nature, is a travel goal worth underlining, and worth promoting wherever in the world it happens.  This past week the following stories came across my desk:

  1. Romania Tourism Revamp Aims for more Danube, Less Dracula.  One man, Mr. Patzaichin, is bringing tourists to the Blue Danube of Strauss, rather than the focus in the past two decades on the culture and myths around Dracula. Romania is a country that can certainly have both.
  2. Apatani Tribe Giving Back to Nature.  In rural India, a tribe living in the Ziro Valley is notable for their low impact on their environment.  The customs and practices of the tribe may teach others how to use techniques that have the least impact on the environment.
  3. The Nenetsky Nature Reserve in Arctic Russia is opening a new eco-tourism route, called “Barefoot Across the Tundra“, in 2017.  It’s a five kilometer route, and sounds like quite an experience:  “Walking across the tundra barefoot is a fantastic experience. You have the indescribable feeling of sinking into the moss, catching your toes on the lichen, having berries burst under your soles, and then walking across soft, warm sand,” said Valentina Semenchenko, deputy director of environmental education at Saylyugemsky National Park.”
  4. In Maine, a Couple has Started a new Ecotourism Company, Venture Outside, which aims to provide tourists with “physical and holistic activities in natural settings around the world”.  Their most popular excursion is called the TMT  — the Try Maine Tri — a five-day adventure designed to rejuvenate the body, mind, and spirit. The itinerary includes three sports, interspersed around other activities in various places throughout Maine, including the Boothbay-Camden area, Downeast-Acadia National Park region, and Baxter State Park.
  5. The Country of Ghana is getting a 1.2 billion Ultra Modern Ecotourism Park in its Capital City.  That funding will bring construction of amusement parks, orchards, an arboretum, wildlife safaris, museums, ecocommercial enclaves, and ecolodges, with as little disruption to natural vegetation cover as possible.

Eco-tourism coming to Goa

January 14, 2016

Although Goa, in India, is known for nightlife, beaches, and a “hippie” vibe, eco friendly travel is coming soon.  The forest ministry in Goa is looking to develop eco-villages in that city, in a bid to decongest the beaches and divert tourists to the beautiful, more rural, areas of the region.

Talking about the future of eco-tourism in the region, Goa Forest Minister Rajendra Arlekar was recently quoted, “We have to balance revenue generation as well as keeping the environmental balance of the state. Setting up eco-villages will help us greatly promote eco-tourism in rural areas.”

Hopefully those plans will become a reality soon.

Saving India’s ecosystem before it’s too late

August 6, 2010
Taj Mahal, Agra, India.
Image via Wikipedia

Suprabha Seshan — a gardener and guardian of the land, living for the last 17 years in the wild rain forest of Kerala, near the southwest tip of India — is taking a fierce run at Bangalore against the software boom, jobs, sudden wealth, the “New India,” which she believes has delivered itself into a deadly trap of consumerism, pollution, ruined forests and rivers, a “virtual” prosperity but a profoundly un-natural India. It is a New India, in short, without tigers or, soon, even orchids.

But Ms. Seshan is scathing in a light, laughing, maybe specially Indian way. It’s an underlying premise among Indian chatterers, as they keep telling us, that often the best point in an argument is one whose direct opposite may sound equally plausible, even true. So let the conversation continue, through many paradoxes. “Is it possible,” she asks herself in conversation, “to live a life without contradiction?” — i.e. without petroleum, chemical fertilizers, technology? “In today’s society,” she answers, “it’s not possible.”

There’s a cutting Indian edge here on the global contradictions of growth in a collapsing biosphere. Tea and eucalyptus plantations under the British Raj upset the balance and beauty of the green range of India’s Western Ghats in the 19th Century, and destroyed vast natural forest lands — but not so much that the state of Kerala doesn’t still market its mountains as “God’s own country.” For 20 years now there’s been an eco-tourism boom in Suprabha’s jungle — with roads, hotels, breaking-up of farms and new construction to serve high-end and mass visitors. The “eco” industry gets its name from the jungle, Suprabha says, but the jungle is withering. Ayurvedic medicine, the rage in New Delhi as well as Los Angeles, draws heavily on plants from Kerala wilds, “but where will we get them in a few years?” Better eco-tourism, I wonder, than the coal and bauxite mining that is churning a tribal rebellion in Eastern India? “Mining is rape,” Suprabha responds. “Eco-tourism is prostitution.”

The good news from her own two decades on 60-plus acres in the wild is that forests and all their complexity do grow back. “The forest will return if given the chance. We call it ‘gardening back the biosphere.’ It can be done.” The bad news is that no one in or out of power will say “no” to eco-tourism and the promise of jobs. How, an interviewer recently asked her, will all this be remembered in the emerging story of the new India?

SS: I cannot relate with the new India at all. We have nothing in common in terms of what we seek as a possible future. The new India is appalling to me, if the new India means the exclusion of the forests. The new India means the end of nature to me. The two cannot go together: this is an apocalypse in the making. Because what is new “Shining” India going to shine with if it doesn’t have its rivers and its plants and its forests? What will it go forth with?CL: What piece of the old India are you invoking? And what is it in the old India that might ring an alarm?

SS: The old India, what little I’ve known, is the diversity of things, the beauty and the sacredness and the diversity of things. In people, in the land, in trees and plants. Everything was sacred, and this was commonly felt. But modern industrial civilization, colonialism, all the powers that be have made it their special mission to destroy that relationship. The sacred doesn’t mean worship necessarily. The sacred means seeing each thing for what it is, and that it has its own right to be. And unfortunately it seems that a lot of mainstream religion has ritualized the sacred and has made an idol out of the sacred. So the sacred is now a plastic idol ringed by lights in someone’s concrete home. And so you worship your elephant that way. And meanwhile, the actual elephant is dying of tuberculosis, and herpes virus. So my question has always been with regard to the so-called famous Indian tradition which is spiritual and so on: it’s become so symbolized and so ritualized and so separated from the actual earth that it has lost its meaning. It is virtual. It’s a virtual religion.

CL: You sound like high Hindu priests I’ve read about, who teach this reverence for the single wasp, for every form of life… Is that a foothold for India to catch, against environmental disaster? This reverence for the planet, for life.

SS: Reverence of any kind, of course, would be a very very powerful foothold. But I just don’t see it. Except in textbooks and stories. I do feel the modern media are crowding them out. Because you can have this experience of nature, of the wild, of the sacred, of anything, and you can almost believe that it’s true. And that’s the danger of the new technology to me: you can track a tiger in the forest through your computer and feel all that adrenaline rush, but you don’t have a relationship with a tiger. Because when you are with a tiger in the forest and your adrenaline rushes you’re a life and death situation… One gym instructor told me in the city, when I told him I live in the forest. He said “Oh, the jungle is a deadly place to booze!” That’s a crude version of what a lot of people do. They go to the jungle and they’re shut away from the jungle. The new technologies and this kind of removal that we see: it’s a severing that’s happened. They’re blind when they go to the forest. They have no means to look at the forest, to see it in a simple way. Just the beauty of it, let alone sacredness. Sacredness is so much more, it’s part of a life and a relationship, a recognition that we all have our spaces and relations with each other.

The deeper messages of entering the forest, and the silence, and the sensitivity, opening up and so on. That is a very quiet thing. That can’t happen in the way outdoor education is being sold to people: you work in an IT company and then you go for a weekend to the forest and then you have this outward bound experience. I don’t think it can happen like that. A relationship with nature is built over generations for the human species — the human species has come out of this million-year evolution, eye-to-eye contact with snakes, and elephants, and plants. You can’t really do it instantly. But a lot can be done: awareness is a pretty instant thing. People can be suddenly opened up in a pretty instant way. But, for that to build into a living relationship of sensitivity and mutual care, I don’t think that is so simple.

Suprabha Seshan in conversation with Chris Lydon in Bangalore, India. July, 2010
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What is Eco-Tourism?

October 2, 2009
Tapanti National Park in Costa Rica
Image via Wikipedia

I was sent the article below from the Express India News Service, and I’ve edited it down slightly.  It’s a good review of the definition of ecotourism with some tips for travelling responsibly.

But what is ecotourism?

There are lots of names for these new forms of tourism: responsible tourism, alternative tourism, sustainable tourism, nature tourism, adventure tourism, educational tourism and more. Ecotourism probably involves a little of all of them. Everyone has a different definition but most people agree that ecotourism must:

* conserve the wildlife and culture of the area

* benefit the local people and involve the local community

* be sustainable, that is make a profit without destroying natural resources

* provide an experience that tourists want to pay for.

So, for example, in a true ecotourism project, a nature reserve allows a small number of tourists to visit its rare animals and uses the money that is generated to continue with important conservation work. The local people have jobs in the nature reserve as guides and wardens, but also have a voice in how the project develops. Tourists stay in local houses with local people, not in specially built hotels. So they experience the local culture and do not take precious energy and water away from the local population. They travel on foot, by boat, bicycle or elephant so that there is no pollution. And they have a special experience that they will remember all of their lives.

This type of tourism can involve only small numbers of people so it can be expensive. But you can apply the principles of ecotourism wherever you go for your holiday.

Just remember these basic rules.

* Be prepared. Learn about the place that you’re going to visit. Find out about its culture and history. Learn a little of the native language, at least basics like ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘good morning’. Think of your holiday as an opportunity to learn something.

* Have respect for local culture. Wear clothes that will not offend people. Always ask permission before you take a photograph. Remember that you are a visitor.

* Don’t waste resources. If the area doesn’t have much water, don’t take two showers every day.

* Remember the phrase: ‘Leave nothing behind you except footprints and take nothing away except photographs.’ Take as much care of the places that you visit as you take of your own home. Don’t buy souvenirs made from endangered animals or plants.

* Walk or use other non-polluting forms of transport whenever you can.

* Be flexible and keep a sense of humor when things go wrong.

* Stay in local hotels and eat in local restaurants. Buy local products whenever possible and pay a fair price for what you buy.

* Choose your holiday carefully. Don’t be afraid to ask the holiday company about what they do that is ‘eco’. Remember that ‘eco’ is very fashionable today and a lot of holidays that are advertised as ecotourism are not much better than traditional tourism.

But before you get too enthusiastic, think about how you are going to get to your dream ‘eco’ paradise. Flying is one of the biggest man-made sources of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Friends of the Earth say that one return flight from London to Miami puts as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the average British car driver produces in a year. So don’t forget that you don’t have to fly to exotic locations for your ‘eco’ holiday. There are probably places of natural beauty and interest in your own country that you’ve never visited.

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