Re-emergence of Ecotourism in Kerala-
Connecting Communities through Conservation
1. Venugopal C.K.
2. R. Babu
Ecotourism which emerged as a buzzword in the late 1980s, in other words is responsible travel to undisturbed natural areas which will help ...view middle of the document...
This backbone, the 1600 km long mountain range is considered as the principal ecotourism site in the country.
Ecotourism in Kerala
Forest with its endemic plants and majestic animals has always captivated man. The forests of Kerala which are blessed with this abundance stands out in the Indian peninsula. Western Ghats is home to diverse flora and fauna. Today the state has established 21 protected areas (16 wild life sanctuaries and 5 national parks) – (shown in Table 1 and Table 2) spread over 1736.88 sq.km that provide a natural advantage for developing ecotourism. Keeping this in mind, Government of Kerala has formed a separate wing for ecotourism with the aim of exploring, developing, and promoting ecotourism destinations with the support of local communities in the identified areas. This initiative took off by the launch of Thenmala ecotourism in Kollam district as India’s first planned ecotourism destination. In addition, the Department of Ecotourism, Government of Kerala has identified 56 spots for promoting ecotourism in the state. Considering their indigenous knowledge in the sustainable ecotourism practices, aborigines and other local communities living in and around protected and other forest areas are being by inducted into Eco Development Committees (EDC) in the protected area networks and Vana Samrakshna Samithi’s (VSS) in the other forest areas.
The Eco Development Project
India Eco Development Project was initiated by Government of India in 1996 aimed at reducing the dependency of local community on forest and to conserve the biological diversity of protected areas with the support of World Bank and Global Environmental Facility (GEF). As part of this initiative, 580 EDCs were formed involving 75,000 households in the selected areas. Considering the biological value of Periyar Tiger Reserve, the India Eco Development Project was launched by the Department of Forest and Wildlife in 1996 in this reserve (Project Performance Assessment Report, World Bank, 2007). The major objectives of this project are following;
• Improve the capacity of protected areas management to conserve biodiversity, increase collaboration of local people and increase opportunities for local participation
• Reduce the negative impact of local people on biodiversity
• Develop more extensive support for eco - development
• Ensure effective management of the project
• Prepare future biodiversity projects
After launching India Eco Development Project in Periyar Tiger Reserve, ecotourism has received significant attention among local people, tourists, service providers and other aid agencies in the state. Considering the significance of ecotourism in the forest areas, steps are being taken to spread this concept into other protected and forest areas of this state. As a result, EDCs and VSS were formed in the network of protected and other forest areas involving local people. For assisting EDCs, a local level...