Beyond the mountaineering mantra of “Take nothing but photographs; Leave nothing but footprints”, ecotourism goes with the motive of minimal impact on ecology and even a positive impact on the trekking trail. For a country like Nepal, which relies heavily on tourism, this concept is of particular importance.
What is Ecotourism?
Defined by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) as “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people”, ecotourism involves broader concept than the sense conveyed by the word ‘green’, a rather misinterpreted and vague term. Ecotourism is more concerned with minimal impact, enhancement of environmental and cultural awareness and respect, positivity for visitors and hosts, financial benefits for locals and raised sensitivity on environmental issues of local, national and global value.
Efforts for Ecotourism in Nepal
Since Nepal opened up to the outer world in 1950, tourism sector has developed by leaps and bounds, both in terms of number of tourists’ arrival and expansion of sector. However, this expansion is leading Nepal towards mass tourism which shall increase the negative impact of tourists’ arrival upon the environment of tourist centered regions in Nepal than ever before. Ecotourism can engage the stakeholders of tourism industry for preservation of ecology while reaping benefits from the industry.
While the exact date of ecotourism in Nepal isn’t established, the effort for conservation of natural diversity and conscious effort for minimizing negative impact on the environment started fairly long ago. With the enactment of National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973, the effort related to ecotourism started. Establishment of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), conservation areas and national parks, hunting reserve and other natural sanctuaries are some of the notable efforts from the government for conservation of wildlife, flora and fauna. A network of 9 National Parks, 3 Wildlife Reserves, 3 Conservation Areas and 1 Hunting Reserve shows the effort for conservation of ecology in Nepal.
Specific examples of Ecotourism in Nepal are presented as follows:
- Annapurna Conservation Area Project or ACAP (Established in 1986. Focused on sustainable resource management and self-sustaining tourism)
- Ghalegaon Sikles Ecotourism Project or GSEP (Established in 1992. Focused on conservation of natural resources and promotion of responsible tourism)
- Kanchanjungha Community Based Ecotourism Project (Started since 1998. Focused on managing wastes, conserving natural environment with maximum local involvement)
- Manaslu Nature Based Ecotourism Project (Established in 1999. Aims for responsible tourism, supporting local economy and development of infrastructures in the region)
- Upper Mustang Biodiversity Conservation Project (Established in 2000. Aims for preservation of biodiversity and cultural heritages, capacity building and lifestyle enhancement of locals)
- Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Program or TRPAP (Funded by agencies such as UNDP, DFID and SNV. Aims for sustainable tourism, promotion of ecotourism activities such as home-stay, tour guide, etc)
- Simikot Humla Development Package (Conservation of Buddhist cultural and religious heritages and natural resources, skill development of locals and supporting local economy)
- Other Ecotourism Projects
- Makalu Barun Development Package, Dolpa Development Package, Tansen Development Package, The Partnership for Quality Tourism Project, etc.
Nepal has been putting effort for the conservation of natural resources, wildlife, flora and fauna and the promotion of sustainable as well as ecotourism. The activities such as Rural Tourism, Mountain climbing, Trekking, Rafting and Bungee Jumping, Cultural tours, adventurous activities such as rock climbing, mountain biking, jungle safari and other activities such as museum visiting, shopping indigenous products, meditation are more or less related with ecotourism. Ecotourism in Nepal is promoted through wildlife, nature and culture based tourism.