“Travel makes a wise man better, and a fool worse.”
Tourism, for millennia, has been a perpetual industry. Though initially unorganized and highly chaotic, it’s retained a place in each nook of history. Through its origin, infinitesimal existence for centuries and before its evolution around the Grand Tour-Renaissance period, many would believe tourism is a ripe industry. Contrasting this belief is the fact that it’s only blooming yet.
Present tourism scenario in India is on the rise, with destinations grabbing eyeballs globally and domestically – now more than ever. Being the youngest nation in the world, it’s no wonder that the aggregate of “millennials” spends more time and money on travel than previous generations. This could be huge for the economy of various states that rely majorly on tourism, if only it were sustainable. Putting simply, sustainable tourism is a concept encouraging visiting a destination in a way that not only contributes to the socio-economic but also environmental layout. Meaning – the locals are happy, the tourists are happy; the future generations? Happy.
Unsustainability prevails throughout the country, in states with higher domestic tourist inflow than foreign. The Dev Bhoomi is a prime example. No matter how popular, Uttarakhand tourism is loop-holed through and through. Here’s how:
1.3M tourists visit the Char Dham’s in 1 month:
Approx. 80% of tourists arrive to complete the Char Dham Yatra (stats: 2013). Such unchecked tourism puts immense pressure on natural and infrastructure facilities. The floods of Kedarnath (Uttarakhand) annihilated the entire town hosting 34,000 tourists, with 11% of the GSDP for that year washed away.
Uttarakhand has 8.4 rent houses/million visitors:
The extreme shortage of accommodation in correspondence with thriving footfalls has led to the construction of illegal buildings, the majority of which exist on riverbanks. Maximum hill stations are struggling to cope with parking and traffic issues.
Higher temperatures cause forest fires:
With an increasing number of tourists coming in through private vehicles to save “transportation money”, pollution levels are rising, increasing temperatures in return. It affects 30+ resorts in a go. That saving is lit. Pun intended.
44,868ha have turned to non-forest use:
Around 10,000ha are being converted for the construction of roads alone. We know, roads are basic infrastructure, but FYI: the Forest Conservation Act requires a project developer to plant trees in a non-forest/degraded forest area equal to or twice the trees it’s clearing respectively, to compensate. As is the case with most things legal, the rule flies out the window. Only 12% of this afforestation has been accomplished, with ample of it done in a different state altogether (UP). Talk about missing the point!
Water pollution in the Ganges impacts half the country:
With unlawful construction and pollution on riverbanks, the Ganges could cause direct harm to resorts, locals and species in Rishikesh and Haridwar, and indirectly across north India.
Source: Dept. Of Tourism, Uttarakhand
We, as consumers of the tourism industry, hold the power to cause a massive stir in this context. According to a research conducted, the “mass” in Uttarakhand’s mass tourism comprises people between 25-35 years of age, with higher education, out with either family or friends and enough average income to contribute to the local economy. And by local, we don’t mean properties owned by MNC’s.
Source: Perception of Tourist – A Case Study of Uttarakhand
The India State of Forest Report (2017) illustrates how Uttarakhand is losing its forest cover, which has indirect development through tourism, at its core. The Government and private tour operators may think they can deny allegations, but the charts speak for themselves.
Source: Forest Survey of India
Regardless of what figures say, if we tote sustainable tourism being the target market, it leaves little choice to the rest of the hierarchy. Consciously making efforts to be responsible tourists and thinking of how to provide for the local community/environment in a way – tiny or big, could act as a catalyst in obliterating this ruckus due to ignorance.
After all, there can only ever be seven Deadly Sins and wanderlust isn’t one of them.