SUSTAINABLE TOURISM AND ECOTOURISM IN India
India is a land of diverse cultures, traditions, and landscapes. From snow-capped mountains totropical rainforests, from bustling cities to serene beaches, the country offers a wide range of experiences for travelers. However, tourism can have a significant impact on the environment and local communities if not managed sustainably. This is where sustainable tourism andecotourism come into play. In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on sustainable and ecotourism in India, with the government and private sector taking steps to promote responsible tourism practices.
As travelers become increasingly aware of their impact on the environment and local communities, the demand for sustainable and ecotourism experiences has grown. In India, this has led to the emergence of eco-friendly accommodations, responsible tour operators, and community-led tourism initiatives. By choosing to travel sustainably and responsibly, tourists can not only enjoy unique experiences but also contribute to the preservation of India's rich cultural and natural heritage. So, let's dive into the world of sustainable tourism and ecotourism in India and discover the beauty of responsible travel!
What is Sustainable Tourism?
Sustainable tourism is a form of tourism that aims to promote ecologically viable development of tourism in the long run. The key significance of sustainable tourism lies in its objective to preserve resources and enhance the value of local culture and heritage. It involves responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, supports the well-being of local communities, and provides positive experiences for visitors. Sustainable tourism seeks tomaintain a balance between tourism development and environmental conservation by promoting responsible tourism practices, reducing carbon footprint, supporting local economies, and preserving cultural heritage.
Sustainable Tourism in India
India is a popular tourist destination known for its diverse culture, rich heritage, and natural beauty.However, tourism has also led to environmental degradation, cultural erosion, and economic disparities in some areas. To address these issues, sustainable tourism initiatives have been introduced in India to ensure the sustainable development of tourism.
Some examples of sustainable tourism practices in India include promoting eco-tourism, encouraging responsible travel practices, supporting local communities through tourism activities, conserving wildlife, and their habitats, and preserving cultural heritage sites. Many national parks, wildlife reserves, and heritage sites in India have been designated as ecotourism destinations to promote responsible tourism practices and conservation efforts. Additionally, sustainable tourism practices are also being implemented in the hospitality industry by promoting eco-friendly accommodations, reducing waste, and minimizing energy consumption.
Sustainable Tourism Practices in India
Sustainable tourism in India can be practiced in many forms as the land offers a varied variety of opportunities in different regions of the country. From exploring the wilderness to talking to villagers while staying in mud houses, indulging in local cuisines and enjoying beaches in a sustainable way without harming the environment and promoting local culture. here are some of the activities to do as sustainable tourism in India:
- Homestays: Homestays are a form of sustainable tourism that allows travelers to stay in local homes and experience the local culture and way of life. Homestays also provide economic benefits to the local communities.For example, many homestays in Coorg, a district in Karnataka, follow sustainable practices like rainwater harvesting and organic farming. Tourists or visitors can stay in these eco-friendly accommodations, learn about sustainable living, and experience the local culture.
- Community-based tourism: Community-based tourism involves local communities in the tourism industry, allowing them to share their culture and traditions with visitors while generating income and preserving their way of life. For example, communicating and living with the tribal community in Chhattisgarh is one such way to enjoy community-based tourism in India.
- Responsible wildlife tourism: Responsible wildlife tourism involves visiting national parks and wildlife reserves in a sustainable manner, without causing harm to the environment or disturbing the wildlife. Wildlife parks such as Periyar national park, Ranthambore national park, Chilika lake, etc., work to provide sustainable tourism to visitors. Visitors can stay in eco-friendly resorts and campsites and enjoy nature at its best.
- Sustainable trekking: Sustainable trekking involves trekking in a way that minimizes environmental impact and supports local communities. This can include staying in eco-friendly accommodations and using sustainable transportation.The village of Sarmoli in Uttarakhand is an example of sustainable trekking. The village is home to the Sarmoli Homestay and Trekking initiative, whichoffers treks to the nearby mountains and promotes responsible tourism practices. The initiative supports the local community andconserves the natural environment by encouraging visitors to use eco-friendly products, dispose of waste responsibly, and respect local customs and traditions.
- Sustainable beach tourism: Sustainable beach tourism involves visiting beaches in a sustainable manner, by avoiding littering, using eco-friendly products, and supporting local businesses.The Marari Beach in Kerala is an example of sustainable beach tourism.The beach is managed by a responsible tourism initiative that supports the local community, promotes eco-friendly practices, and conserves the natural environment.The initiative offers local experiences like cooking classes, village walks, and cultural performances to visitors.
- Sustainable food tourism: Sustainable food tourism involves experiencing local cuisines in a way that supports local farmers and food producers, while also minimizing food waste and environmental impact.The Malabar Escapes Cooking Experience in Kerala is an example of sustainable food tourism. The initiative offers cooking classes that showcase the region's traditional cuisine and promotes the use of local, organic, and seasonal ingredients. The initiative supports the local community by sourcing ingredients from small-scale farmers and encourages visitors to use eco-friendly practices like composting and recycling.
ECOTOURISM IN INDIA
What is Ecotourism?
Ecotourism is a form of responsible tourism that focuses on exploring and experiencing natural environments in a way that minimizes the impact on the environment and supports the well-being of local communities. It is characterized by low-impact tourism activities that are designed to preserve the environment and minimize the negative impacts of tourism. Ecotourism involvesvisiting and learning about natural areas, such as national parks, wildlife reserves, and other protected areas, while also promoting conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.Therefore, eco-friendly tourism provides an opportunity to unwind, forget about the problems of the outside world, and support efforts to preserve nature.
Ecotourism in India
If you are an adrenaline junkie who likes to explore the natural wonders while also caring about the natural exchange, culture, and protection of environment, then ecotourism is the perfect answer for you. India offers several panoramic locations to foster ecotourism which consist of wildlife sanctuaries, zoological parks, biological parks, dense forests, and tea and coffee plantations. With its rich flora and fauna and diverse topography, India serves as a major hub as an unforgettable ecotourism destination for timeless vacations. Here, one can indulge in the following eco-friendly activities:
- Scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, kayaking
- Hot Air Ballooning
- River rafting
- Bungee jumping
- Nature photography
- Wildlife safari
- Nature trails
- Village homestay
Popular Ecotourism Destinations in India
With a diverse topography and stunning landscapes, India offers its visitors a mixed bag of snow-clad mountains, pristine beaches, dense tropical forests, and vast deserts. These places are replete with natural wonders and let you indulge in all eco-friendly activities so that you can have a memorable vacation without harming mother earth. Some of the best ecotourism destinations in India are:
- Thenmala, Kerala
The first ecotourist destination in India, known as Thenmala or "honey hills" in the local Malayalam language, is in the Kollam district of, Kerala, approximately 66 km from Kollam city. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities in Thenmala, including boating on the lake, trekking, mountaineering, biking, and watching a musical fountain. The Thenmala dam is a popular ecotourism spot, and visitors can also visit nearby attractions such as the Palaruvi waterfall and a deer rehabilitation center. Accessible by both Trivandrum and Punalur road, Thenmala offers a beautiful and environmentally sustainable travel experience.
Best time: October to April
Where to stay: Tree houses and eco cottages.
- Bandipur National Park, Karnataka
Established in 1974 as part of the Project Tiger initiative, the Bandipur National Park is a protected area located in the state of , Karnataka, India. With the second highest tiger population in the country, Karnataka takes pride in its role in conserving endangered species of both flora and fauna. The park is home to a diverse range of trees, including teak, rosewood, bamboo, Indian kino, and many others. A variety of flowering plants and shrubs also thrive in the park, such as axle wood, gooseberry, black cutch, golden shower tree, and indigo berry. Visitors to the park have the chance to observe a range of endangered species, including elephants, tigers, sloth bears, muggers, Indian rock pythons, four-horned antelopes, jackals, and dhols.
Best time: March to May
Where to stay: Forest lodges and eco-friendly resorts
- Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir
Ladakh, a union territory located in the Kashmir region of India, is a place that every Indian dreams of visiting at least once in their lifetime. This beautiful region is situated between the Karakoram mountains to the north and the Himalayan range to the south. Some of the popular tourist attractions in Ladakh include Leh, Drass Valley, Kargil, Razi Khar, Suru Valley, Salt Valley, Markha Valley, and various monasteries. The Leh Palace is a particularly notable attraction. Visitors can enjoy trekking, explore Buddhist monasteries, and view ancient cave art. In May 2001, a workshop was organized by the Mountain Institute, Ladakh Ecological Development Group, and Snow Leopard Conservancy to raise awareness and explore opportunities for eco-tourism in the region.
Best time: April to September
Where to stay: Villages homestays and eco camps.
- Chilika Lake, Odisha
A brackish water lagoon covering the districts of Puri, Khurda, and Ganjam in Odisha, this lake is home to a diverse range of migratory birds and several threatened species of fish. Among the major attractions here is Nalaban Island, situated within the lagoon's core. Visitors can also enjoy ecotourism activities such as exploring Rambha Bay, Somalo and Dhumkudi Islands, Bird's Island, and the village of Satapada.
Best time: November to February
Where to stay: Eco cottages and tented camps.
- Periyar National Park, Kerala
Located in the lush green forests of Kerala, Periyar National Park is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts. The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including elephants, tigers, leopards, and many species of birds. Visitors can take a boat ride on the serene Periyar Lake, which is surrounded by dense forests and offers stunning views of the park.
Best time: October to March
Where to stay: Eco lodge and tree houses.
- Nanda Devi National Park, Uttarakhand
Located in the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttarakhand, Nanda Devi National Park is a beautiful alpine park that is home to several rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. Visitors can trek through the park, which offers stunning views of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks. Wildlife elephant safari is also available to explore the park in an eco-friendly manner.
Best time: October to April
Where to stay: Village homestays and eco-friendly lodges.
- Sunderbans National Park, West Bengal
Located in West Bengal, the Sunderbans National Park is a unique ecotourism destination that is home to the Royal Bengal tiger. The park is also home to several other species of wildlife, including saltwater crocodiles and spotted deer. Visitors can take a boat ride through the mangrove forests, which offer a glimpse into the unique ecosystem of the Sunderbans.
Best time: October to March
Where to stay: Eco cottages and homestays.
- Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh
Located in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, the Great Himalayan National Park is a beautiful alpine park that is home to several rare and endangered species of flora and fauna.The park is also known for its stunning trekking routes, which offer breathtaking views of the Himalayan peaks.
Best time: March to May, September to November
Where to stay: Eco tourism homestays and lodges.
- Madhumalai National Park, Tamil Nadu
Located in Tamil Nadu, Mudumalai National Park is a beautiful ecotourism destination that is home to several rareand endangered species of flora and fauna. The park is also known for its stunning trekking routes, which offer breathtaking views of the Nilgiri Hills. Visitors can also take a jeep safari through the park, which offers a chance to spot wildlife such as elephants, leopards, and Indian gaurs.
Best time: October to March
Where to stay: Eco camps and lodges.
- Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya
Located in Meghalaya, Cherrapunjee is a beautiful ecotourism destination that is known for its stunning waterfalls and lush green forests. Visitors can explore the many trekking routes in the area, which offer stunning views of the surrounding hills and valleys.
Best time: Throughout the year
Where to stay: Eco-friendly cottages and campsites.
- Coorg, Karnataka
Coorg is a beautiful hill station located in the Western Ghats. Visitors can go on nature walks, trekking, birdwatching, and camping. The area is also known for its coffee plantations, and visitors can learn about the coffee-making process and taste some of the finest coffee in India. It is also home to Nagarhole National Park, a retreat for beautiful animal and bird species. Exploring the backwaters of Kaveri River is also recommended.
Best time: Throughout the year
Where to stay: Coffee estate stays and eco-friendly homestays.
- Pondicherry,Tamil Nadu
Pondicherry, situated on the west coast of India, is a popular Union Territory that boasts of its pristine sandy beaches, deep blue sea, and cultural diversity, which attracts tourists from around the world. The town still retains the essence of its former French settlement, evident in its roads and buildings.Visitors are encouraged to rent bicycles to explore the town in an eco-friendly manner. There are also opportunities to participate in water activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, and surfing.Apart from being a popular tourist destination, Pondicherry is also well-known for its spiritual retreats like the Aurobindo Ashram, ManakulaVinayagar Temple, and Sacred Heart of Jesus Church.
Best time: October to March
Where to stay: Eco-friendly hotels and heritage stays.
DO’s and DON’T’s of Sustainable and Ecotourism
- Respect local culture and traditions.
- Opt for eco-friendly accommodations and modes of transportation.
- Stay on designated trails while hiking or trekking.
- Carry reusable water bottles and avoid single-use plastics.
- Follow proper waste disposal techniques.
- Support local businesses and buy locally made products.
- Learn about the local flora and fauna.
- Do not disturb wildlife or their habitats.
- Do not litter or dispose of waste in nature especially plastic.
- Do not use off-road vehicles.
- Do not purchase products made from endangered species or threatened habitats.
- Do not support activities that exploit animals for entertainment purposes.
- Do not engage in any illegal activities or substances.
- Do not trespass on private property or protected areas.
To conclude, India is home to a diverse range of destinations that offer ecotourism andsustainable tourism experiences, from national parks and wildlife reserves to cultural and spiritual retreats. These destinations provide tourists with unique experiences while contributing to the sustainabledevelopment of the local communities and the preservation of the environment. It is essential for tourists to be responsible and follow eco-friendly practices to ensure that these destinations remain preserved for future generations.