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Tourism in the Himalayas is not uniform; its impacts though are detrimental

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment

 

Source: DTE

Context: Over the last year, the Union government has laid emphasis on promoting sustainable tourism in the Himalayan region.

Background:

  • The Indian Himalayan region, with its rich biodiversity, offers conditions suitable for several activities (recreation/adventure/religious pilgrimages) and attracts a large number of visitors from all over the world.
  • As tourism is an important source of income and livelihood for people living in this region, it must be ensured that these activities take place in a sustainable manner.

Recent efforts:

  • National Strategy for Sustainable Tourism and Responsible Traveller Campaign: Launched in 2022 by the Union Ministry of Tourism, it focuses on
    • Promotion of environmental, economic and socio-cultural sustainability;
    • Protection of biodiversity;
    • Capacity-building and governance;
    • Greater investment in green infrastructure with more efficient transport facilities reduced air pollution, and conservation of heritage sites and open spaces.
  • Swadesh Darshan 2.0: It is a centrally sponsored scheme for the development of theme-based tourist circuits in the country, including a vision to set up sustainable and responsible tourism in the Himalayan region.

Some challenges need greater focus:

  • Mass tourism: Seasons play a role as a major tourist activity is confined to just a few months in a year – during the peak summer season.
  • Greater anthropogenic pressure on existing infrastructure and local resources during the summer months.
  • More generation of solid waste, ambient air pollution, water pollution and deforestation.
  • Shift is seen in snowfall and melting patterns due to climate change-related impacts.

 

Way ahead:

  • Reduce mass tourism and inculcate a spirit of conservation among locals and tourists.
  • Promoting ecotourism (which involves responsible travel and safeguarding of local environment and ecosystems), alternative or green tourism.
  • Decentralisation of tourism activities based on the available resources in any place. Tourists would also be able to access the benefits of the largely untouched environment.
  • Developing tourist systems in northeastern states that have great potential for ecotourism activities.
  • Assessing the carrying capacity of municipal infrastructure prior to development works.

 

Combat pollution:

  • By practising microbial bio composting: the best way of natural disintegration and decomposition of waste under aerobic process.
  • To combat air pollution, planting locally available (like broad-leaved banj oak), introducing electric vehicles, using non-conventional energy sources like solar, etc.
  • Pine forests, which often witness fires, can be used to make bio-briquettes (used as a substitute for biofuel) and purify water resources.

 

Involve all stakeholders:

  • Any sustainable approach undertaken should involve the local communities, visitors, etc. Encourage skill and capacity-building programmes to spread awareness among different stakeholders.
  • Visitors should learn the rules and good practices to be adopted while travelling through these areas.

 

Insta Links:

Towards sustainable growth

 

Mains Links:

Define the concept of the carrying capacity of an ecosystem as relevant to an environment. Explain how understanding this concept is vital while planning for the sustainable development of a region. (UPSC 2019)