Helping the Indian tourism industry go green! | WWF India

Helping the Indian tourism industry go green!

Posted on
08 April 2011
Jammu: WWF-India and the Ecotourism Society of India (ESOI) organised a two-day training workshop on the theme of ‘Practising Responsible Tourism’ on April 6 and 7, in Jammu, J&K. It was strongly supported by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department and the Pacific Asia Travel Association –India (PATA).

The workshop was attended by tour operators, hoteliers and other service providers, environmentalists, government officials from the departments of tourism and environment, students and various NGOs. It was aimed at helping them understand the importance of safeguarding this fragile ecosystem and raising awareness amongst them on sustainable tourism practices in the high altitude Himalayan region.

WWF-India is working on the conservation of Himalayan high altitude wetlands (above 3,000 m asl), especially through its Green Hiker campaign, under which the workshop was organized. This awareness-raising campaign encourages tourists and tour operators to adopt responsible practices towards minimising their carbon footprint while traveling through the Himalayas.

High altitude wetlands play an important role in the hydrological regime of mighty rivers like the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Indus and the Yangtze. Moreover, they also provide livelihood and sustenance to the local people and livestock, besides supporting a variety of unique flora and fauna.

These wetlands are severely threatened by unsustainable tourism and the increasing human footprint in the fragile region. Recognising the immense value of these wetlands, WWF-India and ESOI organized this knowledge sharing workshop to equip stakeholders with the knowledge of sustainable alternatives in the tourism industry.

ESOI is a non-profit organisation comprising environmentally sensitive professionals from the tourism industry with the objective of ensuring environmentally responsible and sustainable practices in the Indian tourism industry. It was an instrumental force in making the workshop possible and helping expert knowledge reach out to a wide audience.

In relation to the high altitude Himalayan region, the panel of technical experts spoke on topics like solid waste management, eco-friendly architecture, community-based home stays in Ladakh, viable alternatives to conventional energy, checks and balances in ecotourism, policy and legal framework of ecotourism in India, certification, communication to tourists and more.

Present at the occasion were the Chief Guest, The Hon’ble Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mr. Omar Abdullah; Mr. Nawang Rigzin Jora, Hon’ble Minister for Tourism & Culture; Mr. Robin Singh Mehta, Director Tourism, Jammu, Government of Jammu & Kashmir; and Mr. Sujit Banerjee, IAS (Retd), Former Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India (also a guest speaker).

On the occasion, Chief Guest Mr. Omar Abdullah said, “Jammu and Kashmir holds a rich repository of pristine freshwater systems, and unique flora and fauna which we cannot afford to sacrifice at any cost. The responsibility falls on every individual to be aware and make others aware in order to safeguard this fragile eco-region for posterity. The State Government is fully supportive of conservation initiatives like these which will eventually benefit us in the long run. If we don’t act now, it is a lot that we stand to lose.”

According to Mr. Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO, WWF-India, “Sustainable alternatives need to be put in place so that tourism can carry on without negative consequences on the Himalayan high altitude ecosystem. The impact of tourism in this region needs to be dealt with by those in the tourism industry themselves and the local communities that are key stakeholders. They should be both responsible practitioners and delivery mechanisms of the conservation message. The Himalayas need our care and protection.”

“The workshop aimed at setting corrective and curative measures with regard to ecological practices and conservation of nature with a focus on the ecologically sensitive region of Jammu and Kashmir. The challenge for the tourism service providers is, therefore, in keeping an update and sharing operative experiences in implementing environmentally responsible and sustainable tourism practices. These practices will not only create a lighter footprint but will support the local communities and environment, said Mr. Mandip Singh Soin FRGS, President ESOI and Founding Member.

The knowledge-sharing workshop concluded with a valedictory speech by Mr. Atal Dulloo, IAS, Commissioner and Secretary, Department of Tourism and Culture to Govern, who also honoured the speakers and participants with certificates.

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