Eco tourism is a new approach in tourism sector. Several terms relating to ecotourism such as, sustainable tourism, green tourism, rural tourism, community-based tourism, responsible tourism etc have been emerged over the last 20 years or so.
Eco tourism means preserving travel to natural areas to appreciate the cultural and natural history of the environment, taking care, not to disturb the integrity of the ecosystem, while creating economic opportunities that make conservation and protection of natural resources advantageous for local people.
The potential of ecotourism as a strategy for sustainable development was recognized during the Earth Summit in 1992, when sustainable tourism was considered as an environment friendly economic activity.
It can provide vitally needed income to poor communities, giving them an economic stake in protecting the environment. It led to change in the tourist perceptions, increased environmental awareness and desire to explore natural environments. Eco tourism may foster cultural exchanges between people- leading to greater understanding.
India, the land of varied geography offers several tourist destinations that not just de-stress but also rejuvenate you. The few places like the Himalayan Region, Kerala, the northeast India, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and the Lakshdweep islands are some of the places where you can enjoy the treasured wealth of the Mother Nature. Thenmala in Kerala is the first planned ecotourism destination in India created to cater to the Eco-tourists and nature lovers.
The India topography boasts an abundant source of flora & fauna. India has numerous rare and endangered species in its surroundings. The declaration of several wildlife sanctuaries and national parks has encouraged the growth of the wildlife resource. Currently, there are about 80 national parks and 441 sanctuaries in India, which works for the protection and conservation of wildlife resource in India.
There are numerous Botanical and Zoological Gardens in India, which are working towards the enhancement of the Ecosystem. Poaching has been stopped to large extent. There are several animal & plant rights organisations, which fight for the rights of the animals and plants. Numerous organisations and NGOs are coming forward to provide environmental education to the common people at the grass root level.
Community eco-tourism initiative: Eco-tourism at the initiative of communities has been started in different states of India like J&K, Nagaland, Kerala, Sikkim and West Bengal.
In Ladakh, several villages have initiated home stay programmes for trekkers and other tourists, with funds going back to conservation and village development.
Khonoma village near Kohima is the site for ‘Green Village Project’ set up by the Maharana Kumbha Common Interest Group, with nine villages from BPL families. The youths were trained in visitors’ management. The camp offers camel and horse riding, hiking, folk dances etc.
If ecotourism is not properly monitored it can be as damaging as the mass tourism with negative impacts on ecology, environment, social and economic life of host communities. With the increased footfalls of tourists, the deep need today is that tourism like other sector be planned and managed suitably.
Negative consequence List: commercialization, direct impact on environment, problem of garbage and pollution, impact on fauna and flora, encroachment on virgin land, heavy traffic in ecologically fragile areas, adverse effect on local people, trade of wild animals, threat to indigenous culture (Jarawa tribe)
The use of plastic cups, bags and bottles causes havoc in the natural system. Paper cups abandoned in and around biosphere reserves might cause large scale mortality of worker bees. It is reported that globally 70% of crop plants and 98% trees in tropical rain forests are pollinated by tiny insects like bees.