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A policy framework for the promotion of eco-tourism within forest and wildlife areas

by In-house Editor


Eco-tourism, as defined by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), is a form of responsible travel to natural areas that aims to conserve the environment and enhance the well-being of local communities. In this context, the natural environment includes elements like forests and wildlife, which are integral parts of the ecosystem. Conservation efforts must involve the active participation of people, both those living on the fringes of forests and those residing farther away. Eco-tourism can be developed in designated Protected Areas (PAs) such as Wildlife Sanctuaries, National Parks, Conservation Reserves, and Community Reserves. It can also extend to areas outside these designated zones, encompassing forests, mangroves, Sacred Groves, mud flats, wetlands, rivers, and more.

The primary goal of ecotourism is to foster a deeper understanding of nature and wildlife conservation while generating income and opportunities for local communities. To achieve this, several key objectives have been identified:

Low-Impact Tourism: Eco-tourism must prioritize low-impact practices to ensure the ecological integrity of the areas visited.

Biodiversity Promotion: It should actively promote the richness of biodiversity and heritage values in India’s wilderness.

Community Engagement: Local communities should be actively involved, benefiting from eco-tourism through livelihood opportunities and sustainable use of indigenous resources.

Partnerships: Collaboration with all stakeholders is crucial for the development and promotion of nature tourism.

To guide the implementation of eco-tourism, a set of guiding principles has been established:

Eco-Tourism Plan: Each area will have an eco-tourism plan integrated into its management/working plan, specifying locations/routes, permissible activities, timing, and means of travel. States may establish standardized criteria for best practices.

Eco-Tourism Zones: Areas open to tourists will be demarcated based on ecological considerations and the needs of target species, avoiding sensitive sites.

Community Participation: Local communities are key stakeholders and should benefit directly from eco-tourism. Buffer areas and private lands around PAs will also be developed for eco-tourism.

Infrastructure Development: Infrastructure should blend with the environment, utilizing local resources, and avoiding permanent structures. Construction outside PAs should also be eco-friendly and limited to the area’s carrying capacity.

Implementation Strategy: The strategy includes site identification, carrying capacity assessment, capacity building, revenue sharing, monitoring, education and interpretation, and collaboration with local and district/state administrations.

Institutional Mechanism: Each state/UT should establish an Eco-Tourism Development Board to oversee implementation and ensure policy objectives are met.

This ecotourism policy aims to strike a balance between conservation and economic development, with a focus on sustainability, community involvement, and responsible travel practices. Legal provisions within the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, provide the necessary framework for its implementation.

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