India frames new draft eco-tourism policy
In order to have clear interpretations of the rules and regulations to follow in eco-tourism, the government is formulating a new policy to provide guidelines and norms for tourism in protected areas such as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves and even territorial and revenue forests.
A draft policy is framed by the environment ministry in consultation with the states and it is presently with the tourism ministry for their comments. The draft also suggests the need of rules and regulations in areas such as mangroves, mudflats and wetlands.
Currently, tourism activities are carried out based on management plans of protected areas approved.
The new draft policy is said to have assumed the guidelines given by the National Tiger Conservation authority in 2012, for tourism in and around tiger reserves. State has been asked to decide on identifying specific tourism sites, restrictions on visitors and vehicles and infrastructure needs as per the states’ circumstances and requirements. However, it has laid down guiding principles that seek clear demarcation of unaltered spaces in the tourism area, exclusion of sensitive areas used for breeding by wildlife and has urged to involve local communities as stakeholders; but it is not specified as to how much area should be open to tourism.
As per the draft, no permanent structures will be established in violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and homestead like accommodations to be encouraged.
The draft policy gives the state government the authority to charge a fee for development of local communities, human-wildlife conflict management and conservation of eco-system. State can determine how much to be imposed as the conservation fees, based on the scale of tourism prevailing at each place.
The draft exhorts to have an umbrella foundation to collect the funds from tourism. The revenue collected from tourism activities to be shared among the stakeholders. Local communities running eco-tourism facilities would have 40% of the revenue; an equal share would be paid to maintain the tourism facilities, while 10% each would be paid as incentive to local eco-development committee and as revenue to government.
A local level committee has to be set-up to coordinate the activities of state government, district administration, local communities and eco-development committees in the tourism sector.
It specifies to establish an Eco-tourism Development Board, to supervise eco-tourism modalities and to monitor the implementation of the policy.