The Indian eco-tourism sector has shown a considerable amount of growth in the past two years with an increased number of states taking to green tourism in a bid to market their natural heritage. The developing sector is attracting a wide range of tourists responding positively to the ‘nature’s gimmick’.
The sole purpose of eco-tourism is to showcase the ecological heritage of a country or a specific region with an aim to preserve and sustain the region’s flora and fauna. The Himalayan range, Kerala, the North-east India, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dudhsagar Falls, Tsmoriri Wetland Conservation Reserve and the Lakshadweep Islands are some of the major eco-tourism hubs in India.
The Kerala State Government has earned a record INR 145.53 billion from eco-tourism alone in 2016. The Athirapally and Vazhachal waterfalls that witness a large tourist turnover has garnered a revenue of INR 42.79 billion. Wayanad, on the other hand, has generated a profit of INR 40.28 billion. The region of Thiruvananthapuram has earned revenue of INR 10.8 billion.
Canopy walks, a fairly novel concept in India is being implemented between Castle Rock, Uttara Kannada district and Dudhsagar Falls on the Karnataka-Goa border. The first ever canopy walk of its kind, an official associated with the project commented, “This canopy walk is a super popular and romantic concept abroad. However, this is the first of its kind in India. This project was undertaken with the target of getting in more tourists, not only on a regional or national but on an international level. Such trails are especially popular in the dense forests of Europe. The Europeans love it.”
However, environmentalists are crying foul.
A majority of them believe that these gimmicks are turning natural conservation areas into amusement parks, just as a measure to rack in extra cash. Take the Kali Tiger Reserve for an instance being turned into an eco-tourism spot, raising a big hue and cry among environmentalists. They believe that such an initiative poses threat to the ecological balance of the region as it would incur more harm than good. Prantik Dube, an environmentalist commented, “I fairly believe that these ploys to lure in tourists have nothing to do with the authentic value of ecotourism and what it actually stands for. They (the government) are devising ways to market these tricks in the name of eco-tourism.”
So, is eco-tourism a pragmatic tourism solution that is slowly gaining momentum or is it a natural facade that is being marketed?