Relevance of ecotourism in the real world scenario

Samarjit Kambam *

Shilheipung Ecotourism and Crafts Village at Leimakhongmapal, Near Lamlai, Imphal East ::  January 2014
Shilheipung Ecotourism and Crafts Village at Leimakhongmapal, Lamlai in January 2014 :: Pix - Somorendro Huidrom

Human civilisation is susceptible to change and change could gradually be brought about through human or natural action. The unflinching human propensity to achieve more and more within a short span of time is undeniable and has, so far, proved to be recalcitrant. In order to fulfill such an unsustainable want of stubborn perceptive, humans have made tough demands on the nature.

Rapid industrialisation, deforestation, burning of fossil fuels, increasing number of free riders, etc. shot up the vulnerability level of our already woeful mother earth. This describes as to why the need for international agreements to restrain and combat the frequent changes apparently visible in appalling climate changes arose.

The last year's Paris Agreement, signed by 197 countries has been marked as a historic and positive step to deal with the challenges faced by human civilisation under drastic climate changes. The agreement, popularised as 'legally binding' agreement, has been ratified by 81 member states and came into force on 4th of November, 2016.

The main concern regarding any climate agreement has always been the international distributive mechanism employed to divide the responsibilities. Despite the call for "common but differentiated responsibilities", the poorer countries always remain the main sufferers, where most often the developed countries either fail or remain reluctant to fulfill the responsibilities, responsibilities which are to be shared mainly in areas of mitigation, sustainability and adaptation.

Down to earth philosophy or utilitarianism focuses on the end results or consequences. Institutions are obliged to act through utilitarian principles. For the no-frills, the principles of climate change agreement must lie on the consequences and overall utility irrespective of people's preferences.

This implies that the disadvantaged countries, particularly the endangered islands have no say in the agreement if overall result for the rest of the countries ignoring the demands of least developed nations, produces the required beneficial result. Such an approach is inapplicable in the international scenario because utilitarianism excludes the obligations we have to particular groups of people.

Libertarian perspective, on the other hand, focuses on individual responsibility and proportionality. Respecting choices and rectifying unequal circumstances contradict to open mindedness. While it exhibits its commitment towards respecting people's choices, rectification of unequal circumstances is not appraised at all. Proposing the free market as inherently just, it unleashes the freedom that favours the market driven countries with the knowledge of market tactics. Some take a libertarian stance to assert rights to the biosphere. The irony is that commodification of biosphere characterises the free market.

A just distribution of endowments depends on entitlement to use the biosphere by virtue of being the first to do so. This results in the maintenance of status quo where developed countries enjoy the right to emit green house gases at current levels, regardless of any past or present responsibility. Previous approaches failed to tackle the international climate issue justly.

Even though the Paris Convention has been termed as "monumental triumph" by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, developing countries continue to suffer through climate change with little or no recognition to differential treatment and support that they demanded. The convention attempts to breach historical tradition perpetuated in favour of developed countries and introduces an incisive agreement, seemingly more inclined to meet the needs of developing countries. But the million pound question is, will it really materialise?

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are expected to be made by all Parties to the convention in the areas of mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation with the assurance that the developed countries would assist the developing countries by providing financial support, technology development and capacity building.

This lets the reins of control in the hands of developed countries. In this capitalist world, the one who provides the part of the capital does so with the intention to draw as well as to retain the power to make decisions. Such status quo is the greatest stumbling block where only a few developed Godfather nations take other developing countries for a ride, making them move at their whims and fancies in the name of climate change.

It is at this transition that I would like to bring forth about Ecotourism, which literally means responsible travel to natural areas, conserving the environment and improving the well being of the local people and "playing our parts" by keeping away at bay the hypocrisy and double standards of developed nations and make ourselves a part and parcel of Green Rebel to bring forth a Green Revolution.

For those who prefer green, I mean those environment conscious people, ecotourism is truly a form of environmentally conscious tourism. It has attracted increasing attention in recent years, not only as an alternative to mass tourism, but also as a means of economic development and environmental conservation.

In other words, ecotourism has a strong connection with sustainable tourism in which sustainability depends on the relationship between tourism and environment. The appropriate management for ecotourism development is essential in order to conserve and maintain the biological richness of the area as well as economic upliftment of the local people. In addition, ecotourism is an opportunity to promote the values of the protected areas.

Decision-making in tourism development and planning is becoming increasingly complex as organisations and communities have to come to terms with the competing economic, social and environmental demands of sustainable development. It is imperative that areas suitable for ecotourism are to be developed and ensure that ecotourism criteria matches with the basic resource characteristics of the area.

Suitable management for ecotourism development is essential to maximize the positive impacts and minimize negative impacts on all aspects of tourism. So, the main objective is to identify and prioritise the potential of ecotourism sites which fulfill the criteria, such as conservation of biological and cultural diversities through ecosystem protection and promotion of sustainable use of biodiversity with positive impact on the environment.

The other factors or indicators need to be considered for evaluation process of ecotourism site suitability, within land ecosystem such as landscape or naturalness, land use, land coverage, reservation and protection of wildlife and species diversity, topography, accessibility and community characteristics along with other factors based on criteria including proximity to cultural sites, settlement size, etc.

Spatial environmental data can be used to explore conflicts, examine impacts and assist decision-making. Impact assessment and simulation are increasingly important in ecotourism development and play a role in suitability of locations for proposed developments, identifying conflicting interests and modeling relationships. Of late, in our state of Manipur also, we have witnessed many eco-gardens sprouting up in various parts of the valleys and hills.

Locals though we are, when we visit those places, we are also tourists in one way or other, conventional or non conventional and we are indirectly promoting ecotourism, in fact, we become working definition of ecotourism when we travel to such destinations.

Ecotourism is intended to offer tourists insight into the impact of human beings on the environment, and to foster a greater appreciation of our natural habitats which literally means that ecotourism is also a part and partial entity in moulding to make a greener earth over and above interaction with biotic components of the natural environments. It also fosters respect for different cultures of denizens of the respective regions.

Let's play our parts to promote ecotourism and contribute, however small, to the sustainability of our environment and making mother earth a greener planet. Is anybody listening?

* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at kambamsamarjit0(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on April 25, 2017.

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