Eco-tourism and its significance
Ecotourism is defined as “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” Such tourism is low- impact, educational and conserves the environment while directly benefiting the economic development of local communities. Eco-tourism should attract visitors, offering them a chance to interact with nature in such a way that the special qualities of the site can be preserved or enriched. At the same time productive base should be created so the local communities as well as ecotourism service providers can enjoy a sustainable standard of living while offering these services. Besides all these, the revenue produced from tourism helps and encourages governments to fund conservation projects and training programs (Gujarat Tourism, 2014).
Financial assistance or incentives from the local conservation fee can be provided as incentives for communities/ individuals who own revenue lands outside protected areas, to convert such lands to forest status (MoEF, 2011).
Gujarat has a kaleidoscopic variety of cultures which makes it a rich cultural heritage spot with immense potential of becoming a major tourism destination. Gujarat also boasts of diverse natural landscapes contributing to the state’s natural beauty . Gujarat was ranked 10th in terms of domestic tourist arrivals and 16th in international tourist arrivals in the year 2009. As per the Gujarat state government estimates, the tourism sector accounts for 2.5% of Gujarat’s SDP and has contributed significantly towards total employment generation (both direct and indirect). The average foreign currency spent per person per day is close to USD 700 to 1050 in Gujarat.
Step of the State towards Eco-tourism
Withdiverse ecosystems such as deserts, dry forests, grasslands as well as rich moist deciduous forest, marine ecosystems and wetlands, , Gujarat can establish and promote ecotourism for nature lovers (Gujarat Tourism, 2011). Eco-tourism destinations are also present in Gujarat including 4 national parks and 22 sanctuaries.
In 2007, state government came up with the “Gujarat Eco-Tourism Policy”. The Government of Gujarat has accordingly embarked upon developing tourism in a sustainable manner by expanding tourism infrastructure, promotion and marketing, development of accommodation and skilled manpower in the sector. The policy and programmes are being oriented to ensure development of tourism in sustainable manner and distribution of benefits of tourism to all stakeholders. Care is being taken for infrastructure augmentation projects to ensure that the development is in conformity with the local ambience and vernacular architecture and eco-friendly practices are followed as far as possible.
According to the “Gujarat Eco-Tourism Policy” in 2007 for identification of prospective eco-tourism sites following natural areas shall be considered and sites to be promoted:
- Long coast line for identification of known and unknown beaches.
- Sanctuaries and National Parks.
- Pristine forests of eastern hilly terrain of Gujarat.
- Unique landscapes and ecological niches, e.g. Rann, back waters, wetlands.
Dunny Point is the first ecotourism site in Gujarat which is located at Dwarka, land of Somnath. It is active in nature conservation that started as a vital aspect of government policy. The Kankaria Lake, another ecotourism site with its new look, attracts tourist from all over the world with its unique serenity and beauty. Surrounding the lake, tourists have endless recreation activities to engage in such as the Zoo, Garden Park, Fish Aquarium, Balvatika (for kids), a mini Train tour round the lake, boating and other facilities (Gujarat Tourism, 2014).
In an effort to boost ecotourism, the government has recently identified as many as 42 sites across the state to be developed as ecotourism destinations. The sites include wildlife and bird sanctuaries, pristine forests of the eastern hilly terrain, diverse landscapes and ecological niches among others. Accommodation and lodging for prospective tourists, camping sites, adventure activities, interpretation centres, and cafeteria will be developed in the identified sites (Gujarat Tourism, 2014).
List of the areas of Gujarat where eco-tourism activities have been undertaken under the grant of the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd., Gandhinagar is as follows:
|5||Kachchh||Bhachau||Petrified wood fossil park, Dholavira|
|6||Junagadh||Veraval||Harihar Van Somnath|
|16||Banaskantha||Danta||Maglya Van Ambaji|
|17||Banaskantha||Danta/ Palanpur||Balaram- Ambaji|
|19||Bhavnagar||Bhavnagar||Velavadar National Park|
|21||Gandhinagar||Gandhinagar||Wilderness Park, Gandhinagar|
|22||Gandhinagar||Gandhinagar||Fossil Park, Gandhinagar|
|23||Gandhinagar||Gandhinagar||River Front Development, Gandhinagar|
|24||Gandhinagar||Gandhinagar||Herbivore and Butterfly Park, Gandhinagar|
|25||Gandhinagar||Gandhinagar||Facility at Indroda Park|
The Gujarat Ecology Commission (GEC) is implementing the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP) in Gujarat. The project aims to improve the livelihood opportunities for the communities which are dependent on these resources by providing alternative livelihood opportunities. The State Project Management Unit and Marine National Park & Sanctuary, Jamnagar is implementing pilot investment for the conservation of coastal resources management and conservation in the Marine National Park and therefore prefeasibility study is being conducted under the ICZM Project for developing eco-tourism in and around Marine National Park & Sanctuary area.
Gujarat Eco-Tourism Policy, 2007. No. WLP-2005-1764-G.1 (1818) 1 January, 2007
MoEF, 2011. Guidelines for ecotourism in and around protected areas, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
Business Standard, 2011. Gujarat Govt keen to develop eco-tourism, http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/gujarat-govt-keen-to-develop-eco-tourism-111120100078_1.html, cited on 19 March, 2014 @ 11:54 hrs.
Gujarat Tourism, 2014. http://126.96.36.199:8080/gujarattourism.com/general.php?id=Ecotourism cited on 18 March, 2014 @ 13:14 hrs
Gujarat Tourism, 2011. Monthly e-magazine of Gujarat Tourism,http://www.gujarattourism.com/downloads/e_magazine_april_07042011.pdf cited on 18 March, 2014 at 13.57 hrs
One India News, 2008. Gujarat’s new tourism policy stresses on eco-tourism, http://news.oneindia.in/2008/11/17/gujarats-new-tourism-policy-stresses-on-eco-tourism-1226932720.html , cited on 19 March, 2014 @ 11:54 hrs.