Saturday, 16 June 2012

Management of tourism in Lakshadweep - lessons to be learnt for Nepal???

Attempts to regulate tourism in Nepal are quite limited (mainly to Sherpas and paying tourists back deposits for returning with rubbish) and subsequently the environment has started to suffer. However there are other regions of the world that have started to successfully manage their tourim.....
Lakshadweep is a tropical island system, with environmental sustainability at the heart of its development. The heritage of ecology and culture is supported by an extremely fragile ecosystem, as with in the Himalayas. However Lakshadweep are committed to the cause of eco-tourism, following a middle path between tourism promotion and environmental conservation. The impacts of tourism on the environment is carefully monitored, ensuring that promotion of tourism is consistent with ecological concerns. It seems that an  effective strategy has been implemented to avoid excess pressure on  the environment, meaning that tourism does not exceed the carrying capacity of the islands.

In order not to adversely affect the physical environment promotion of tourism only occurs in those islands that can sustain it keeping in view the concept of carrying capacity. The facilities are developed in such a way that they do not result in loss of bio-diversity. No development is permitted in geologically unstable zone. Adequate buffer zones exist between development and the cf existing shoreline, including a ban on high buildings whilst all construction materials/methods are compatible with environment and height, shape and location of building merge with the natural vegetation.
All tourism development schemes are first analyzed from environmental impact point of view and only if they meet the norms in this regard implementation is taken up. EIA includes...

1 All proposed construction should have thatched roof or tiled sloping roof.
2 Only bio toilets to be installed as far as possible.
3 Rain water harvesting to be set up to conserve fresh water.
4 Use of Pump Sets should be minimized; the pump set in any case should have a cut off mechanism to ensure that water below the minimum safe level is not drawn.
5 Waste disposal system like incinerators for non-recyclable/non bio degradable waste should be installed and system of returning all non-biodegradable waste must be in position.
6 Minimum cutting of tress/ greenery and maximum plantation of trees, plants, shrubs and creepers.
7 Carrying capacity study of the island before taking up development in any uninhabited island
8 A regular system to educate tourists about environment fragility of eco system

Harsh environments are in some cases often the most fragile and Hawaii due to its tectonic setting can be described as quite a fragile environment. Living with geomorphological hazards is not easily and can be detrimental to the economy, therefore development but Hawaii, as with Iceland, have started to utilise tourism as a way to enable development in harsh environments. By 1966 in Hawaii, the tourism industry had overtaken the export of sugar and pinapples as the main source of income and since then, with the invention of the Boeing 747, this industry has boomed. An estimated 7,000,000 tourists visited Hawaii in 2009, with the average American tourist spending $180 a day and Asian tourists $250 a day. Tourism brings huge benefits to Hawaii such as:

- Provides 35% of the country's total revenue ($9billlion in 2009)
- Generates over 18,000 jobs, mainly in hotels, which represents over half the total employment of the state
- Income from tourism provides money to protect the environment as well as helping to pay for health care, education and social security on Hawaii
Similarities can therefore be drawn with Nepal as the tourism industry accounts for aruond 10% of their GDP, but most importantly provides a direct income for local people in an area where agricultural productivity is limited. However, there are also similarities between the issue associated with tourism's exploitation of the environment......

.....There are some issues with tourism linked to vulcanicity. Honeypot sites have developed around the volcanoes, which are not evenly distributed so overcrowded results, and the appending impacts of soil erosion and various forms of pollution are causing issues for the surrounding environment. Then greater pressure is exerted to increase size of visitor centres which only accentuates detrimental impacts. Management and strict guidelines, such as those imposed in the USA National Parks, can reduce the impacts but, especially in developing countries these are no legally enforced. How many people actually live by the rules, 'leave nothing, take only photographs'? Unfortunately for the delicate ecosystems many of us visit, not enough, so does this mean that it is not possible for true eco-tourism to exist in reality? Perhaps that is a topic for another blog post but whilst tourism can have social and economic benefits for an area, often without carfeul management and inforcement of legislation it can harm to environment and currently this is being seen in Nepal.

So, can Nepal learn any lessons from what has been done in Lakshadweep and Haiti? Well I definently think that carrying out an EIA would be a very good idea! To me I think the main issue at present is the number of tourists, which seems to exceed the carrying capacity of the Himalayas, therefore perhaps raising the cost of visas would reduce the number visiting Nepal each year. The difficultly is that due to lack of resources and minerals, tourism is crucial to this developing country and is likely to continue to be so unless TNCs relocate and provide FDI to kickstart other industry...... what is clear though is that something needs to be done to reduce the detrimental impact of tourism in this fragile environment.

What steps do you think need to be introduced? Let me know what you think!

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