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Why ecotourism should be placed as priority of government policy

Ecotourism in Manipur would help increase awareness and concern for the environment through nature-based tourism activities and generate employment for many in the state.

BySanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Updated 6 May 2022, 1:29 pm

(Photo: IFP)
(Photo: IFP)

Travel is good for the soul. It helps us to see the world and gain new perspective of our environment. It expands the mind and hearts. It helps us realise life’s most important purpose, which is to love and respect everyone around us and make the world a better place for human beings and animals. But every time we pack our bags and jet off on a trip or set out on a new adventure to places, we leave behind footprints of each mode of transport and resources used. Now, ecotourism, which advocates for environmental conservation, protection and interpretation of natural environment, is catching up travel and tourism in Manipur gradually.

It may be pointed out that ecotourism is a form of tourism involving responsible travel (using sustainable transport) to natural areas, helping to conserve the environment and improving the well-being of the local people. Its purpose may be to educate the traveller to provide funds for ecological conservation to directly lead to sustainable utilization of our natural environment resulting in economic development and political empowerment of local communities or to foster respect for different cultures and human rights.

Since 1980s, ecotourism has been considered a critical endeavour by environmentalists so that future generations may experience destinations relatively untouched by human intervention.

Ecotourism may focus on educating travellers on local environments and natural surroundings towards ecological conservation and imparting traditional knowledge system to future generations. Some include in the definition of ecotourism the effort to produce economic opportunities that make conservation of natural resources financially possible. Generally, ecotourism deals with interaction with biotic components of the natural environments.

Ecotourism focuses on socially responsible travel to destinations where flora and fauna and cultural heritage are primary attractions. Ecotourism is intended to offer tourists an insight into the impact of human beings on the environment and foster a greater appreciation of our natural habitats.

Ecotourism aims at minimal environmental impact on the areas visited. Besides fostering respect towards the natural environment, ecotourism also helps in creating socio-economic benefits for the communities of the area visited.

Responsible ecotourism programmes include those that minimize the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment and enhance the cultural integrity of local people. Therefore, in addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, an integral part of ecotourism is the promotion of recycling energy efficiency, water conservation and creation of economic opportunities for local communities. For these reasons, ecotourism often appeals to advocates of environmental and social responsibility.

Many consider the term’ ’ecotourism’’ like ‘’sustainable tourism’’ (which is a related concept but a broader one), an oxymoron. Accordingly, the overall effect of sustainable tourism is negative where like ecotourism philanthropic aspirations mask hard-nosed immediate self-interest. 

Ecotourism is important because companies and individual who abide by the core principles and priorities ecology and education within their travel habits help to benefit local people and the world as a whole.

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Traditional tourism can place a huge strain on destinations, because it increases the number of people who are active in that location and who are reliant on its resources. At the same time, it can encourage the destruction of natural world, as business strives to keep up ever-increasing levels of demand.

Ecotourism can take many different forms, but few of them are: Mutually Beneficial Community development Trips; Eco Lodging and Low Impact Accommodation; Eco Trekking and Activity-based Ecotourism etc.

The state of Manipur is a tiny land-locked hilly region covering an area of 22,327 sq km and having six valley districts as well as 10 hill districts with a population of approximately 30 lakh.

Ecotourism in Manipur was deep rooted since the pre-historic period. During the time of Luwang Ningthou Punshiba, the ‘Cheirao-ching’ of the Langol sacred hill ranges became the first traditional ecotourism centre. Since then various ecotourism centers have been established in different parts of the ancient kingdom.

Some of the important traditional eco-tourism centers are Nongmaiching-Ching, Kroubu-Ching, Thangjing-Ching, etc, which contributed to preserving the unique ecological balance of the earth, aesthetic beauty of the state, good health and longevity of life of the locals.

The modern trend of growth in eco-tourism in the state started only when the Tourism Department of Manipur was established.

The Tourism Department of Manipur aims to generate economic surplus without causing irreparable damage to the environment, conflict to individuals, sentiments and ethos of the diverse host population to ensure sustainable development of tourism industry in Manipur while protecting the fragile ecology of the state.

Tourism sector plays a vital role in creating employment opportunities in rural as well as urban areas leading towards sustainable livelihood generation systems and cohesiveness among various cultural as well as racial groups in rural and urban areas both. Cutting across the social strata, the travel and tourism industry benefits with parity and empowers a large number of economically backward populations of a place.

The Manipur government had declared tourism as an industry for taking novel measures for the development of tourism-related sectors. Natural sites, wildlife and traditional gardens, cultural sites, fresh water lakes and rivers, archeological sites, adventure destinations and exotic waterfalls are special focus areas in promoting ecotourism of Manipur.

Development of Tourism with the help of ecotourism of the state will help in development of tourism in the state. Potential benefits of ecotourism in Manipur are enormous.

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Manipur, known as the land of jewel in Northeast India, is famous for its scenic beauty, salubrious climate, lush green plains and hills, rich flora and fauna, wildlife sanctuaries, lakes, wetlands and floating national park of the state. The rich biodiversity of the hill region in the state holds a huge potential as an economic resource for generating income. Apart from its rich natural environment and green destinations, the rich culture, traditions and ethnic heritage and diversity holds huge potential for ecotourism in the state.

Benefits of Ecotourism in Manipur could be:

- Helps to diversify the local economy, employment directly in the tourism sector and in support management sectors;

- It would generate foreign exchange for the country and injects capital and new money into the local economy;

- Stimulates profitable domestic industries, hotels and other lodging facilities, restaurants and food services, transportation system, handicrafts and guide services;

- Generates foreign employment, directly in the tourism sector and in support and resource management sectors;

- Improves road system and infrastructure that contributes to the entire destination can be justified and supported by the benefits from the tourism development; Increases tax revenues from tourism;

- Natural Environment Benefits - Parks and natural preserves may be created and ecological preservation supported as a necessity for natural based tourism;

- Ecotourism in Manipur would help increase awareness and concern for the environment through nature-based tourism activities. Hence, ecotourism should be considered a priority of the government policy.

(The views expressed are personal)

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First published:4 Apr 2022, 6:51 pm

Tags:

manipur tourismtourism sectormanipur tourist placesEcotourism

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Assistant Professor, JCRE Global College, Babupara, Imphal. The writer can be reached at sjugeshwor7@gmail.com

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