Uttarakhand turns over a green leaf, to create ecotourism circles and destinations

Uttarakhand has taken a step towards sustainable tourism with the State Forest Department recognising five ecotourism circles and three ecotourism destinations. The officials have touted the move as a ‘game changer in conserving the forests and environment of the Himalayan state’. The ecotourism circles comprise Dehradun-Hrishikesh-Tehri, Ramnagar-Almora-Nainital, Yamuna Tons Valley, Haridwar-Pauri and Tanakpur-Champawat-Devidhura-Nainital. The latter will be developed at Ramnagar, Dhanaulti and Ranikhet.

These circles have been identified based on similarities in the flora and fauna of the regions and their proximity to each other. Forest Department officials firmly believe that by identifying ecotourism hotspots, Uttarakhand will be able to better conserve its ecosystem and avoid over influx of tourists. Each circle and destination will be under strict scrutiny to determine a fixed carrying capacity of tourists, beyond which no tourists will be allowed into the locales. Officials also revealed that environmentalists, researchers and school children, firmly asserting only those who respect nature will be allowed in the three ecotourism destination.

In a holistic approach to preserving the environment, locals will also be involved in ensuring the ecotourism circles thrive in a safe and sustainable backdrop. Dheeraj Pandey, Additional Secretary, Forest Department of Uttarakhand explained, “We’re planning to train the villagers in various activities like birdwatching, identifying plants in the forests, etc. so that they can guide tourists properly. The objective of the policy is sustainable tourism, giving back to nature and allowing local communities to benefit from the process.”

The move comes as a welcome change in the day and age of rapid environmental degradation.