At a time when governments and tourism players across the world are striving hard to strengthen the tourism industry, we need to understand that tourism also plays a role in greenhouse gas emissions. Scientific studies and reports have revealed that tourism accounts for over 5% of the greenhouse gas emissions (GG emission). Of this, the transportation involved in tourism accounts for over 90%. By 2030 there will be a 25% increase in CO2 emissions from tourism when compared with 2016.
A golf course of 150 acres requires at least 200 million gallons of water annually which is equivalent to more than 75 crore liters. This huge amount of water can suffice at least 7000 Indian families living in rural areas. The average golf course also requires a minimum 2000 kgs of chemical fertilizers which has a huge environmental impact as well.
In 1950, there were 25 million tourist arrivals in the world in different countries. In 1970, this number went up to 166 million and by 1990 this was 435 million. Between 1990 to 2018, the number of tourist arrivals in the world became three times higher and it went up to 1.442 billion and by 2030 1.8 billion tourist arrivals are projected. Let us now relate this with India. 30 years back the number of tourist arrivals in Goa, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Himachal or J&K was very less but now the rush is huge. Before 1990, few thousand pilgrims would visit Amarnath, Kedarnath or Badrinath but now this number has also increased. This is posing a great threat to our ecology and environment.
In Sonamarg , Pahalgam or Gulmarg we had very few concrete hotels in the past but now with the huge influx of tourists we have constructed a large number of hotels in these tourist destinations and these places now look like small cities rather than hill stations. This is going to have a negative impact on our ecology and environment as these practices will cause depletion of our natural resources.
Managing waste in tourist places across the world has become an arduous task and this is more challenging in hilly areas like Gulmarg , Pahalgam and Sonamarg in Kashmir. The day isn’t far when things will go out of control and all our tourist places will be choked with trash and our tourism industry will collapse. To address this, the only way out is to adopt sustainable and responsible tourism practices and all the stakeholders in tour and travel trade need to understand these practices.
Ecotourism Conclave at Gulmarg
On December 16th , the Ecotourism Society of Kashmir in association with Gulmarg Development Authority -GDA organized an ecotourism conclave at Gulmarg to discuss and deliberate on overcoming irresponsible tourism practices. The newly posted CEO of Gulmarg Development Authority -GDA Mr Raja Waseem sought cooperation from tourism players to make Gulmarg a sustainable tourist destination. He said that illegal constructions and unscientific waste management are two big challenges which he wants to address in the coming months.
Chairman Ecotourism Society of Kashmir Sameer Boktoo welcomed the participants who were mostly hoteliers, travel agents, media persons and Govt officials and urged upon them to join hands in preserving Gulmarg.
The Vice Chancellor of Central University of Kashmir (CuK) Prof A Ravindernath, who was chief guest on the occasion, laid emphasis on strengthening sustainable tourism practices and assured that CuK would collaborate with GDA and other stakeholders on building capacities of the students vis a vis ecotourism. He said that CuK already has a separate department of Tourism studies which works under the school of business studies. He said the department can work in collaboration with GDA, tourist players and NGOs and send their students for internships as well.
Executive Member Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry -KCCI and past president Travel Agents Association of Kashmir, Farooq Kuthoo , Perzada Fayaz Past President TAAK , Nadeem Qadri legal advisor Ecotourism Society of Kashmir , Zahoor Qari Past Chairman Travel Agents Association of India-TAAI JK Chapter, Akram Siah President Travel Agents Society of Kashmir-TASK , Shamim Shah Travel Agents Federation of India JK Chapter head , Noor Mohammad Shangloo JK Tourism Alliance Chairman and officials from Army also spoke on the occasion and voiced their concern about Gulmarg.
Responsible Tourism & Cape Town Declaration
Responsible tourism practices are now discussed and debated across the world since the last few decades. It focuses on respecting the tourism destination’s environment, community, and culture.
The Cape Town conference on Responsible Tourism was organised by the Responsible Tourism Partnership and Western Cape Tourism as a side event preceding the world summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, and attended by 280 delegates from 20 countries. It grew out of the South African work on responsible tourism guidelines and involved delegates field-testing the South African Guidelines on sites in and around the city. The 2002 Cape Town declaration agreed that responsible tourism minimises negative economic, environmental and social impacts. generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well being of host communities. This is an internationally recognised event, supported by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, that highlights how tourism can make the world a better place.
The Cape Town declaration is now widely accepted and was adopted by the World Travel Market in 2007 for World Responsible Tourism Day which is celebrated on November 7th every year.
The participants in the Gulmarg Ecotourism Conclave were fully focussed on responsible tourism as it aims to correct the adverse effects caused by irresponsible mass tourism.
National strategy on sustainable tourism
Govt of India has in-fact come up with a National Strategy for Sustainable Tourism last year wherein thrust has been given on Sustainable Tourism. The Sustainable tourism or Green Tourism takes into account current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visiting tourists, the tourism industry, the environment and host communities. The policy document on National Strategy for sustainable tourism prepared by the Ministry of Tourism through an office memorandum dated April 29th 2022 reads :
“The National Strategy for sustainable tourism aims to mainstream sustainability in Indian tourism sector and ensure a more resilient, inclusive, carbon neutral and resource efficient tourism while safeguarding natural and cultural resources”
Responsible tourism practices cannot be achieved in Gulmarg or in Kashmir valley unless we become responsible citizens. Tourists, hoteliers, cab drivers, restaurant owners , shopkeepers and all other tourism players as well as the Government have to show the awareness of responsibility towards green tourism.
To make Gulmarg a better tourism destination we as responsible citizens or tourists also need to make sure we don’t carry any plastic with us to Gulmarg. The local shopkeepers and hoteliers must also minimise the use of plastic and all the food waste should be processed at a centralized place by GDA and converted into compost.
If small organic waste composters-OWCs are installed in the hotels that will be more useful to convert food waste into compost.
Battery operated ATVs & cabs need to be introduced in Gulmarg. Govt must provide additional staff to GDA and volunteers and interns from colleges as well as universities can also be asked to handhold GDA’ work.
A massive Information Education and Communication -IEC campaign has to be initiated in Gulmarg which will hold street plays , stage shows in the Gulmarg bowl and create awareness on responsible tourism in Gulmarg.
The GDA also has to make sure the waste management plant set up in Gulmarg around 2017 is made operational and all the waste is carried in a segregated manner to this site as mandated under MSW Rules 2016. This needs frequent deliberations and discussions between GDA and other stakeholders and I am sure under the leadership of present CEO Gulmarg will be an example for Responsible Tourism in the country.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
- Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is Anant Fellow for Climate Action and has written extensively on sustainable development , climate action and environment
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