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Eco Tourism

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Eco Tourism

Eco-tourism is more than a catch phrase for nature loving travel and recreation. Eco-tourism is consecrated for preserving and sustaining the diversity of the world's natural and cultural environments. It accommodates and entertains visitors in a way that is minimally intrusive or destructive to the environment and sustains & supports the native cultures in the locations it is operating in. Responsibility of both travelers and service providers is the genuine meaning for eco-tourism.

Eco-tourism also endeavors to encourage and support the diversity of local economies for which the tourism-related income is important. With support from tourists, local services and producers can compete with larger, foreign companies and local families can support themselves. Besides all these, the revenue produced from tourism helps and encourages governments to fund conservation projects and training programs.

Saving the environment around you and preserving the natural luxuries and forest life, that's what eco-tourism is all about. Whether it's about a nature camp or organizing trekking trips towards the unspoilt and inaccessible regions, one should always keep in mind not to create any mishap or disturbance in the life cycle of nature.

Eco-tourism focuses on local cultures, wilderness adventures, volunteering, personal growth and learning new ways to live on our vulnerable planet. It is typically defined as travel to destinations where the flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Responsible Eco-tourism includes programs that minimize the adverse effects of traditional tourism on the natural environment, and enhance the cultural integrity of local people. Therefore, in addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, initiatives by hospitality providers to promote recycling, energy efficiency, water reuse, and the creation of economic opportunities for local communities are an integral part of Eco-tourism.

Historical, biological and cultural conservation, preservation, sustainable development etc. are some of the fields closely related to Eco-Tourism. Many professionals have been involved in formulating and developing eco-tourism policies. They come from the fields of Geographic Information Systems, Wildlife Management, Wildlife Photography, Marine Biology and Oceanography, National and State Park Management, Environmental Sciences, Women in Development, Historians and Archaeologists, etc.

Eco-tourism is considered the fastest growing market in the tourism industry, according to the World Tourism Organization with an annual growth rate of 5% worldwide and representing 6% of the world gross domestic product, 11.4% of all consumer spending - not a market to be taken lightly

What is Ecotourism?

| | | ConservationOffering market-linked long-term solutions, ecotourism provides effective economic incentives for conserving and enhancing bio-cultural diversity and helps protect the natural and cultural heritage of our beautiful planet. | CommunitiesBy increasing local capacity building and employment opportunities, ecotourism is an effective vehicle for empowering local communities around the world to fight against poverty and to achieve sustainable development. | InterpretationWith an emphasis on enriching personal experiences and environmental awareness through interpretation, ecotourism promotes greater understanding and appreciation for nature, local society, and culture. |

The Definition
Ecotourism is defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." (TIES, 1990)
Ecotourism is a form of tourism involving visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, intended as a low-impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial (mass) tourism. Its purpose may be to educate the traveler, to provide funds for ecological conservation, to directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities, or to foster respect for different cultures and for human rights. Since the 1980s ecotourism has been considered a critical Endeavour by environmentalists, so that future generations may experience destinations relatively untouched by human intervention.[1] Several university programs use this description as the working definition of ecotourism.[2]
Generally, ecotourism focuses on socially responsible travel, personal growth, and environmental sustainability. Ecotourism typically involves travel to destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Ecotourism is intended to offer tourists insight into the impact of human beings on the environment, and to foster a greater appreciation of our natural habitats.
Responsible ecotourism includes programs 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.[3] For these reasons, ecotourism often appeals to advocates of environmental and social responsibility.
Fundamentally, eco-tourism means making as little environmental impact as possible and helping to sustain the indigenous populace, thereby encouraging the preservation of wildlife and habitats when visiting a place. This is responsible form of tourism and tourism development, which encourages going back to natural products in every aspect of life. It is also the key to sustainable ecological development.
The International Eco-tourism Society defines eco-tourism as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." This means that those who implement and participate in Eco-tourism activities should follow the following principles:

* Minimize impact * Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect * Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts * Provide direct financial benefits for conservation * Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people * Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climate
Support international human rights and labor agreements
Aware of the Environment - Today the "Green Laws" of conservation are making people aware of how man and the environment can live symbiotically for more time to come and eco-tourism is the only way to maximize the economic, environmental and social benefits of tourism. Everyone is a stakeholder in the process and we clearly need to avoid our past shortcomings and negative impact that they have had. In India too the movement is gathering momentum with more and more travel and travel related organization’s are addressing the needs of the ecotourists and promoting eco-tourism in the country.Some basic do's and don'ts of eco-tourism are listedbelow: Do's * Carry back all non-degradable litter such as empty bottles, tins, plastic bags etc. These must not litter the environment or be buried. They must be disposed in municipal dustbins only. * Observe the sanctity of holy sites, temples and local cultures. * Cut noise pollution. Do not blare aloud radios, tape recorders or other electronic entertainment equipment in nature resorts, sanctuaries and wildlife parks. * In case temporary toilets are set-up near campsites, after defecation, cover with mud or sand. Make sure that the spot is at least 30 meters away from the water source. * Respect people's privacy while taking photographs. Ask for prior permission before taking a photograph.
* Do not take away flora and fauna in the forms of cuttings, seeds or roots. It is illegal, especially in the Himalayas. The environment is really delicate in this region and the bio-diversity of the region has to be protected at all costs. * Do not use pollutants such as detergent, in streams or springs while washing and bathing. * Do not use wood as fuel to cook food at the campsite. * Do not leave cigarettes butts or make open fires in the forests. * Do not consume aerated drinks, alcohol, drugs or any other intoxicant and throw bottles in the wild. * Do not tempt the locals, especially children by offering them foodstuff or sweets. Respect local traditions. * Polythene and plastics are non biodegradable and unhealthy for the environment and must not be used and littered.
Golden Rules When You Travel

* Learn about your destination before you get there. Read guidebooks, travel articles, histories, and/or novels by local authors and pay particular attention to customs such as greetings, appropriate dress, eating behaviors, etc. Being sensitive to these customs will increase local acceptance of you as a tourist and enrich your trip. * Follow established guidelines. Ask your eco-tour operator, guide and/or the local authorities what their guidelines are for limiting tourism's impact on the environment and local culture. Staying on trails, packing up your trash, and remaining set distances away from wildlife are a few ways to minimize your impact in sensitive areas. * Seek out and support locally owned businesses. Support local businesses during your eco-travels to ensure maximum community and conservation benefit from your spending.
Current picture of Ecotourism in Bangladesh

As stated above, Bangladesh is endowed with the largest mangrove ecosystems in the world, the Sundarbans, the longest unspoiled natural sea beach in the world, the largest man-made lake and a vast offshore marine environment. These are complex and dynamic ecosystems where there are long-term ecological changes, such as those caused by the formation of new mudflats through the natural process of accretion, and the ever-changing micro relief of the innumerable streams and rivers due to erosion and sedimentation. Bangladesh is engaged in a continuous endeavor to integrate her ecotourism resources through planning, management and appropriate use, based on the following principles: (i)optimum multiple use of the resources; (ii) maximum sustainable use; and (iii) conservation and development of natural resources. When we promote and sell our tourist products (for example, the Sundarbans, the Hilly Districts, Cox’s Bazar) we have to make sure that there sources, such as the forests with their numerous varieties of trees, plants, herbs and their animals are not destroyed or overexploited. Obviously, tourist products should be used in such a way that they are not going to be destroyed. Large numbers of tourists can be the cause of destruction. Tourists, who unmindfully or without caring throw away their left-over food scraps and drinks, leave behind synthetic articles or tin containers cause damage to the local environment and eventually the earth. One way to handle such problems is to control tourist visits to each particular product or place. Restrictions can be imposed on the number of tourists, and on how they undertake their visit, before a site becomes overcrowded. It is a good idea to present a particular tourist location at which there are a number of attractions. By doing this one can spread the load while presenting variety to tourists. There are good laws in Bangladesh related to the environment, and the legal system is potentially strong. Yet like other laws, the enforcement mechanism remains either weak or is completely missing. Consequently the legislation is not effective in any real sense. Nevertheless, to promote tourism and protect nature at the same time, there is no alternative but to enforce the laws properly. In the Hilly Districts, tribal people set fire to the jungles for jhoom cultivation (a primitive tribal way of cultivation) causing serious damage to the forest and the species there in. The tribal people need to be stopped from doing this.

Potential for Eco-tourism in Bangladesh

Bangladesh enjoys a unique position, being easily accessible from many popular destinations in South Asia. This is a real advantage, and particularly true of the Chittagong Hill Tracts that provides a truly pristine and exciting destination for travelers. According to the Lonely Planet Bangladesh profile, three destinations worth visiting are the Govinda Shiva and Jagannath Temples at Puthia, Rajshahi, St. Martin's Island, and Rangamati and Kaptai Lake in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The country is home to the Royal Bengal Tigers ,leopards, Asiatic elephants, monkeys, langurs, gibbons (the only ape in the subcontinent),otters and mongooses. Reptiles include the sea tortoise, mud turtle, river tortoise, pythons, crocodiles, gharials and a variety of snakes. There are more than 600 species of birds, including the Paradise Flycatcher and the most spectacular kingfishers and fishing eagles(IUCN, 2000). The climate of Bangladesh is subtropical and tropical and there are six mainseasons: Grishmo or summer, Barsha or Monsoon, Sharot or fall, Hemanto or fall, Sheit or winter and Bashonto or spring. The Bengal region has a multi-faceted folk heritage,enriched by its ancient animist, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim roots. Weaving, pottery, and terracotta sculpture are some the earliest forms of artistic expression. The World Heritage Committee has included in the World Heritage List and the Sundarbans (which is in the list of World Heritage Sites). Major Eco-Tourism Destination in Bangladesh
1.The Sundarbans (Largest Mangrove Forest)
2.Hill tracts Districts (Bandarban, Rangamati,Khagrachori)
3.The Saint Martin’s Island (Coral Island)
4.Nijhum Deep ( Sea queen Island )
5.Srimongol Lawachera rain forest & Tangua Hoar

Promoting eco-tourism in the Sundarbans

Mangrove is a peculiar type of ecosystem in the inter-tidal region. Because of its interesting environmental conditions, it offers a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities. Naturally, mangroves can attract a large number of tourists and be a source of earning through national and overseas tourism. In many countries, tourism in the mangrove environment has been developed. Revenue earned through eco-tourism from one hectare in a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya, exceeds many times the most optimistic projected return from agriculture.

There is also evidence that the economic benefits derived from forest-based eco-tourism surpass the revenue earned from timber harvesting. It is important to note that preservation of forests, specially mangroves can be compatible to tourism if well planned.

Eco-tourism is a sustainable form of land use, which contributes to environmental conservation, while providing accrued socio-economic benefits to the indigenous people through the non-consumptive uses and indirect values of the natural biological resources. Considering the vulnerable nature of our environment eco-tourism must be encouraged. Eco-tourism should be based on the following principles: (i) optimum multiple use of the resources; (ii) maximum sustainable use; and (iii) conservation and development of natural resources.

Obviously, tourist products should be used in such a way that they are not destroyed. Tourists, who unmindfully or without caring litter the spots leftovers cause damage to the local environment and eventually the earth.

One way to handle such problems is to regulate tourists visits to each place. Restrictions can be imposed on the number of tourists, and on how they undertake their visit, before a site becomes overcrowded. Without controls, it is obvious that the more tourists visit a place, the more its ecological balance may be threatened or degraded. However, we do not restrict tourism. If we can apply the principles of sustainable development, tourism could be encouraged to grow. More forests could be declared as sanctuaries for tigers, deer, elephants and crocodiles to attract more tourists.

There are good laws in Bangladesh to protect the environment but these are rarely enforced. The goal of eco-tourism development in Bangladesh should be to capture a portion of the enormous global tourism market by attracting visitors and using the revenues to fund local conservation and fuel economic development.

The Sundarbans is a unique ecosystem. Its exceptional scenic beauty and rich wildlife can be source of attraction to different levels of people and is convenient for outdoor recreation. Eco-tourism may be developed without causing damage to vegetation and wildlife. Because of weather condition tourism may be limited to winter months when the climate is favorable. The only way to visit the Sundarbans is by water transport. Adequate water transport and accommodation facilities inside the forests are to be created to attract local and foreign tourists. In fact the recreational potentiality of the Sundarbans has never been utilized. Facilities needed for the tourists have not been developed. There is immense potentiality of the Sundarbans for earning through tourism. Eco tourism spots in this World Heritage site can easily attract the tourist from everywhere. Some of these sites are as following:

Katka is an eye catching and quiet island located in the north-west part of Sundarbans. Katka is an excellent and favorable spot, where visitors can enjoy bird watching, wildlife especially Royal Bengal Tiger and deer, roaming around by country boat through small creeks and canals and also by walking through the forest. One can also enjoy swimming and sun bathing at Katka's desolate white sand beach.

Kachikhali is a roaming and breeding ground for the Royal Bengal Tiger and is also known as "Tiger Point". There is a Forest Department resort, which is used by the tourists. Visitors spend their time by walking around the tiger point, Katka-Kachikhali beach and visiting the Egg Island or Dimer Char, a small island close to Kachikhali.

Nilkamal is a beautiful place along the Bay of Bengal. The World Heritage plaque was unveiled at Hiron Point of Nilkamal. The combined beauty of sea and green mangroves Nilkamal must attract visitors from the watchtower of Keorasuthi another attractive spot there. Thousands of spotted deer, birds and sometimes a Royal Bengal Tiger can be seen from the tower.

Dublar Char is an island famous for drying fish during the month of November-February in the winter season. This place is also famous for religious festival of Hindu community popularly known as "Rashmela" that takes place at the end of November. Visitors come here to see the life of fisherman and their unique fish drying. These dry fish or 'sutki' is exported to domestic and foreign markets as a delicacy.

The Sundarbans comprises 45 percent of the total productive forest of the country, contributing about one-half of the forest related revenue. About 50 to 60 thousand people work regularly and continuously for about six months, while the number of people entering the forest in a year can be as high as 3.5 million for minor forest product collection and fishing. Of these about 25 thousand work for fish drying, 200 thousand get engaged in shrimp fry collection in the rivers and creeks around the Sundarbans. About 2.5 million people live in the villages surrounding the Sundarbans, while the number of people within 20km of the forest boundary is 3.14 million. The main forest products are timber, firewood, thatching material, newsprint raw material, honey and wax, fish and crabs, shrimp fry and miscellaneous items. Of all the products the fishery of Sundarban represents the most important non-wood component which constitutes 5 percent of the total fish harvest of Bangladesh. Eco-tourism is a major component of the Sundarban Biodiversity Conservation Project. It comprises a range of integrated activities.

Although generally it has been said that tourism in Bangladesh suffers from a poor image, but eco-tourism potential, on the contrary, is rated high. Presently it is in a very early but promising stage of development. The Sundarbans is unique of Bangladesh. This is because of its majestic beauty, richness of biodiversity and tranquility. There are many aspects to learn and enjoy from this largest mangrove forest.

The Sundarbans represents a charming mystery. It is home of the Royal Bengal Tiger. It provides a peaceful and relaxing refuge from the population density of Bangladesh. Every year innumerable people visit this unique forest. But most of them do not have any sound knowledge about eco-tourism. Their actions often harm the environment in many different ways. Sound pollution is one of them. Many visitors like to enjoy music very loudly, which can be upsetting to the quiet and serene environment. The development of eco-tourism in the Sundarbans should be given top priority both by the Forest Department and the Sundarbans Biodiversity Conservation Project.

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