Essay on Tourism and Environment
Tourism and Environment are intrinsically related with each other. The development and up gradation of the tourist sector depends on a clean environment, free from all hazards.
Development of Thought:
Environmentally responsible tourism is a new concept the world over. There are two aspects of the relation between tourism and environment. Tourism depends heavily on an un spoilt natural environment. The world over, location of scenic beauty and un spoilt natural splendor have replaced heritage monuments in tourism trends.
Therefore for tourism to survive, protection of these natural environments becomes a pre-requisite. At the same time providing amenities of potable water and other infrastructure to tourists often become a cause for environmental degradation. Unrestrained commercialization has harmed many a fragile ecosystem.
The Earth Summit in Brazil discussed the issue of “sustainable tourism”-i.e. tourism without harm to environment, within the context of overall sustainable development. In India, an environmental impact assessment is now being insisted upon as a prerequisite for all major tourism projects.
Tourism, if it is to be a vehicle of culture, prosperity and peace, must conserve without damaging, protect without plundering, and create, without destroying and at the end of it all, we must remember that in this we are trustees of the future.
One of the most controversial and ‘active’ subjects today is environment. And, tourism is intrinsically related to environment.
Tourism represents around six per cent of world trade, and almost 13 percent of the total global consumer spending. The significance of these two factors cannot be gainsaid. Tourism, let us face it, is an industry. Like any commercial venture, investment in the industry has to be commensurate with profitability.
But unlike most other industries, truism is essentially based on a good environment, and should therefore, natural be more concerned about its proper protection, preservation and further development, in its own interest, if not out of altruistic motives.
Tourism depends heavily on an authentic socio-cultural environment and an un spoilt natural environment. A discerning observer of the world tourism scene would sense a certain change that is gradually taking place in the order of preferences of the: international and domestic tourist.
Heritage monuments have yielded place to locations which afford opportunities for leisure in an atmosphere of scenic beauty end cultural novelty. In India, we suffer from what can only be termed as an embarrassment of riches in this regard.
The upsurge witnessed in tourism demands vast infrastructural facilities like hotels, restaurants and roads, which affect the environment. Even when care is taken minimize this adverse impact, tourists by their very numbers and behaviour, create certain problems.
Environmentally-responsible tourism is a new concept the world over. Its formal enunciation emanates from the 1989 Hague Declaration on Truism, which advocates rational management of tourism so that it contributes to the protection and preservation of the natural and cultural environment.
Even at the Earth Summit in Brazil June (1992) the issue of ‘sustainable tourism’ was discussed within the context of overall sustainable development.
In India, an environmental impact assessment is now being insisted upon as a prerequisite for all major tourism projects. Some areas, such as the Aravallis, have been declare as being eco-sensitive, and commercial development in and around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries is being strictly regulated.
Unrestrained commercialization has eroded the stability of our coastline. Interference with natural sand-dunes would undermine the eco-system of the locality. This compels eco-system is nature’s defence line against tidal waves and land erosion by the sea.
Even if beach resorts are built in such a way as to aesthetically blend with the surroundings, the problem does not end there. Beach resorts require enormous quantities of sweet water to cater to the lifestyles of rich tourists.
Over-exploitation of underground water creates an imbalance, disturbing the saline aquifers of the sea-bed, resulting in an increase of salinity, making well water in coastal villages undrinkable, and Stalinizing fields to a point where agriculture is seriously affected.
Availability of water is also a major problem in the hill stations. Overcrowding and indiscriminate construction, particularly in our Himalayan hill-stations, not only create ugly blots on the landscape, but also give rise to problems of sewages and sold waste disposal.
Another crucial issue is that of energy consumption. Tourist facilities should so designed as to be energy efficient, taking advantage of sun in hill-stations and wind directions and breezes on the plains and coastal areas, to reduce heating, cooling and the air-conditioning requirements to the barest minimum.
They would have to think of ways of using natural light as a preferred means to artificial lighting, solar heating to geysers, and often solar cookers to electric ovens. Non- conventional sources of energy and water conservation have to be in the future the hallmark of all tourist projects.
A large number of tourists, both international and domestic, are attracted to national parks and sanctuaries which afford them glimpses of wildlife. Mountains, jungles, rivers and lakes also allow for the newfangled ‘adventure tourism’, hiking, skiing and other similar activities.
All this is very well, and certainly deserves to be encouraged, since quite apart from the income generated by tourism, it also increases public awareness about nature and all its beauties. The mistake is when we confuse wildlife and adventure tourism with picnics. A national park is not the place to spend a pleasant Sunday afternoon, playing games or sipping martinis.
More than just the architecture of the buildings, it is the tourist activities that must blend into the surroundings. Underlying everything we do must be empathy for wildlife and a respect for its habitat.
We find empty bottles, empty cans and plastic bags not only marring the beauty but also threatening animals who have been known to choke and die from trying to eat the food off discarded plastic wrappers or containers.
Why cannot we have battery-operated vehicles cutting down both on noise and harmful emissions instead of having conventional vehicles?
In every case it is necessary, to do a detailed study about the carrying capacity of any tourist location, be it a hill-station or a beach resort or a wildlife sanctuary. By ‘carrying capacity’, is meant the load of people that a particular area can take.
The carrying capacity would further determine the optimum number of people required to sustain it both economically as well as environmentally.
It would be a good idea if the tourism industry itself undertakes such carrying capacity studies in its own enlightened self-interest. The government would certainly be willing to cooperate with information and guidance.
Until recently, tourism in our country was mainly religious tourism. Pilgrims who visited the holy places were humble and had great respect for the local communities living in these places.
In turn, the visitors were welcomed with open arms and open minds and given all cooperation and assistance. There was nothing obtrusive in the attitudes of the pilgrims which could offend the sensibilities of local inhabitants. But the present scenario is different.
It is not the intention to pain a dismal picture or say that tourism is something which should toe banned. Tourism contains within itself the potential of developing into one of the most eco-friendly industries-provided that there is a re-orientation of perspectives and an acceptance of the basic tenets of conservation.