During the past decade, India ecotourism has emerged as a way to label destinations displaying a concern for the protection of natural panoramic areas, its flora- wildlife habitat, local population, and their well-being. In developing countries, like in India, ecotourism is mostly believed as ‘visiting natural areas specially bestowed with wildlife, such as a forest, sanctuaries and national wildlife parks’. Hence, many state governments in India have tendered ecotourism custody to their respective forest departments. As a result, many sanctuaries in most of the states are getting the ecotourism boost, including
- Assam-Kaziranga and Manas National Park,
- Gujarat-Gir Wildlife Sanctuary,
- Kerala-Periyar Tiger Reserve,
- Karnataka-Bannerghata National Park, Bandipur, and Nagarhole Wildlife Sanctuary,
- Madhya Pradesh-Kanha and Bandhavgarh Wildlife Sanctuary,
- Maharashtra-Pench, Bor, and Melghat Tiger Reserves,
- Uttar Pradesh-Corbett National Park and Katarniya Ghat Wildlife Sanctuary,
- West Bengal- Sunderban and Gorumara National Park, and
- Rajasthan- Ranthamore and Sariska Tiger Reserve.
India Ecotourism Provides Skills Training
The key elements of ecotourism that have been followed by the respective state forest departments in India have actually helped in the conservation of wildlife, tourist education, and socio-economic development of the local communities near the sanctuaries.
Local people are employed for guiding services, transportation, and interpretative jobs and in some states, homestay options have been developed. Locals are given permission to run food, snack, and souvenir shops, and women sensitivity and employment training programs are conducted by the forest departments for these protected areas. Many privately branded ecotourism accommodations in India have mushroomed in well-known wildlife areas, providing job employment and training opportunities to the local people.
Impact Examples of India Ecotourism in Maharashtra
- During a sanctuaries survey in the district of Nagpur, it was found that the contribution of community participation, i.e.local people involved with the development process was almost equal to the contribution by stakeholders. The survey indicated that by contributing to cleanliness, better environmental conditions, and consistent patrolling work, such as what is occurring for the Pench Tiger Reserve, hotels can work with development authorities to expedite the community development process.
- Livelihood training programs, food preparation and service training, guide training, and the introduction of solar products have all been provided to staff and local people. Women are being taught how to stitch eco-friendly handbags so that tourists can carry them and therefore not litter while visiting the Pench Tiger Reserve. In addition, women who are employed as restaurant workers and housekeepers in the region also receive training from the forest departments in conservation. These programs are also available to staff children and van Samiti members.
- A Village Eco Development Committee (VEDC) has been established, a Mowghli festival for children has been organized, and people who have been dislocated as a result of tourism have been provided alternative accommodation and employment.
India Ecotourism Next Steps
There has been a lot of improvement, but there is still a lot of work to do. For example, one guide was quoted as saying, “We are happy that the forest department provides us training, but we need additional employment avenues during rainy offseason and quality security provisions like a good communication network in core areas, better uniforms, etc.”
With that, it has been observed that local people are actively involved in the development process of the ecotourism spots and if given an equal participation opportunity, they might do exemplary work for its sustainability as holistic development can be a useful strategy for the socio-economic development.