A concerned Centre have came out with a draft guidelines for eco-tourism in the country and asked state govts to develop a strategy to check unplanned tourism in protected fragile landscapes.
Environment Ministry laid out a detailed set of framework guidelines on the selection, planning, development, implementation and monitoring of eco-tourism in and around natural ecosystems, saying “unplanned tourism in such landscapes can destroy the very environment that attracts such tourism in the first place.”“All states should notify the state-level Eco-tourism Strategy by December 31, 2011, and put the same in the public domain, in the local language also,” says the guidelines which also directs the state governments to carry out “relevant modifications” in rules in order to ensure adherence to these standards by tourist developers and operators.
The draft guidelines said the states should prepare “a site-specific eco-tourism Plan for each Protected Area” and levy a “local conservation cess” as a percentage of turn-over, on all privately-run tourist facilities within 5 km of the boundary of a Protected Area.
It also directed the temple/pilgrimage boards to designate as sacred groves the pilgrimage sites located inside Protected Areas.
All transit camps and places of stay for such pilgrimage must be restricted to nominated days in a year and all rules that apply to tourism facilities including noise, building design, use of alternate energy and free passage to wildlife will apply to such pilgrim facilities, it says.
The guildelines also directs temple boards to negotiate terms of revenue sharing with local communities, and channel a minimum of five percent of gross revenue collected into development of local communities through the Panchayat and Gram Sabha.
“Livelihoods to local communities are of paramount importance. Without their full participation, and without their realizing the benefits of ecotourism in tangibly visible measure, our protected areas can not remain protected in any meaningful manner,” Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in his foreword.
The draft guidelines has also asked the Protected Area Management to develop a “Do’s and Don’ts” like visitors should dress in colours that blend with the natural environment, observe the sanctity of holy sites, respect local customs and do not provoke wild animals.
The draft guidelines also ask visitors not to disturb the highly endangered, endemic species during their courtship period.
“The Central Indian barasingha, a highly endangered, endemic species found only in Kanha has a courtship period of about 1 month in winter, during which it is extremely sensitive to disturbance,” the Ministry said.
Likewise, the peak courtship activity for spotted deer lasts for two months before the onset of regular monsoon.
“As far as tigers are concerned, newborns are seen between March and May and also during the rains; hence an average value of two months in a year can be considered as the matter phase,” it said.
The guidelines also suggest that the staff strength could be increased during tourist peak season.