ISSN 1108-8931


Year 6 - Issue 64

Sponsored by: Zante Feast Holidays, Purple Valley Yoga, Hana Botanical Gardens

Urban Ecotourism Declaration

The first International Urban Ecotourism Conference, organised by and co-sponsored by, conducted on-line in September-October 2004, concluded successfully with a declaration, drafted and agreed by participants. It is hoped relevant authorities and decision-makers in cities around the world, will be encouraged to plan for urban ecotourism and green cities. Please feel free to disseminate. Full text follows:

Urban Ecotourism Declaration

Recognising urban centers as cradles of civilisation, socio-political progress, examples of co-existence between diverse cultures ... and

Recognising the importance of ecotourism in facilitating cultural exchange, environmental conservation, sustainable and equitable development...

We, the participants of the first International Urban Ecotourism Conference, ask interested stakeholders -- officials at the local, federal and international levels, relevant cultural, historical and environmental organizations, the private sector, travellers and residents -- to focus on common goals:

• Restoring and conserving natural and cultural heritage including natural landscapes and biodiversity, and indigenous cultures;
• Maximising local benefits and engaging the local community as owners, investors, hosts and guides;
• Educating visitors and residents on environmental matters, heritage resources, sustainability;
• Reducing / minimizing our ecological footprint.

Participants in our conference respect Urban Ecotourism as an ongoing opportunity to conserve biological and social diversity, create new jobs and improve the quality of life.

We propose that local authorities and other stakeholders should work together in taking the following measures:

Share news about local endeavors towards environmental and biodiversity protection.
Improve existing information centers with details on urban environment and culture or create new centers.

- Conduct surveys of best practices from other cities, and share with all interested stakeholders.
- Improve interpretation of natural and cultural features for residents and visitors.
- Showcase urban ecotourism models to stimulate broader awareness, acceptance and interest.
- Create and distribute green maps

Showcase biodiversity conservation

Increase public green spaces and guarantee the free use of public space.
Create opportunities for positive interaction among residents and travelers.
Encourage participation by all stakeholders - particularly small and
medium-sized enterprises that are the core of sustainable tourism and urban ecotourism.
Integrate municipal development of Urban Ecotourism bottom-up with regional, national and international allies.
Encourage connections between the tourism industry and the cultural heritage and environmental sectors
Focus on enhancement/cleanup of the urban environment

Encourage renewable energy sources

Finance adequate infrastructure, public spaces, personnel to develop Urban Ecotourism in an organized fashion.
Provide incentives to develop tourism and employment in marginalized areas.
Develop natural product and organic product markets (particularly those with local goods).

Make public transit visitor friendly
Encourage and support construction of interconnected bicycle lanes/trails and walking paths.
Support and promote public transit for tourists and residents
Encourage transportation innovation and research to develop new solutions

Ecotourism & Climate Change in Atlantic Canada: An Industry Perspective
by Wendi Dewey, Nova Scotia, Canada

Globally, the Tourism Industry faces very serious issues as a result of "Climate Change". But if one were to ask the average Tourism operator what some of their major concerns were, many would not immediately think of climate change. On the contrary, Ecotourism operators would be more inclined to say that climate change is a major concern for their business, as they are dealing with the first hand impacts daily.

Some impacts Atlantic Canada’s Ecotourism operators have felt in the past 10 years, as a result of Climate Change include:

(a) Long, dry summers & drought, which may limit access to natural areas. In the summers of 2002 & 2003 forest fire index elevations, in some parts of Atlantic Canada, restricted visitations to protected areas, and thus many operators were unable to take visitors to their normal locations.

(b) More extreme weather, such as storms (surges, hurricanes, etc.) which can impact operators’ businesses. For example, in the Winter of 2000, storm surges washed out boardwalks and trails in south eastern Nova Scotia, forcing operators to make changes to their tours during the peak season. In September 2003, Hurricane Juan hit Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, destroying many trees. Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, a popular attraction/green space in the heart of the area’s largest city, became virtually unrecognizable as a result of the hurricane. (Note: The park has since re-opened and is hosting visitors again)

Unpredictable weather creates challenges for operators, making it difficult to plan for the season, as well as product development for the future.

Changes in snow patterns can create challenges for some operators who offer winter experiences. For example, in recent years New Brunswick is experiencing a shift in where snow is plentiful during the winter, as well as a change in the duration of the season in some areas of the province.

Impacts on wildlife such as changes in migration & feeding patterns, means that viewing times may be impacted. For example Whale Watching in the Bay of Fundy is now starting in May and going into late October and early November. Operators are also staring to see some unusual wildlife in the area. In the summer of 2000, the Bay of Fundy had Orca whales (a.k.a. Killer Whales) visit during the summer months (which is unusual for the area, which is traditionally home to Humpback, Fin, Minke, and Northern Right Whales).

The question becomes: how does Industry adapt?

Diversification! Operators need to get creative with their product offerings and how it is delivered. For example, an operator in Nova Scotia recently launched two new winter tours in the National Parks in New Brunswick and Newfoundland (and they already have tours to Bermuda and Iceland).

Operators will need to focus on marketing. For example a whale watching operator in Nova Scotia is going to add photos of whales in the fog to his brochure and website for next year; highlighting how it can be a magical experience to view whales in the fog, as sound (not sight) becomes tremendously important to finding the whales.

Operators must be able to substitute activities when something prevents them from following their scheduled tour. Cultural activities are key to enhance the Ecotourism experience, and are often not subject to weather. In order to prevent cancellations, operators should have contingency plans in place (to ensure the visitor has a quality trip).

Finally, operators should be lobbying tourism associations and all levels of government to advocate for their support the Kyoto Protocol.

Climate change is a major issue for the Tourism Industry in Atlantic Canada (for ALL sectors). Long-term climate changes may have serious impacts on Industry; however diversity is the best way for operators to deal with changes. Operators must practice environmental sustainability and green management principles in their businesses, and encourage responsible travel from their guests.


Sustainable & Community Based Coastal & Wetland Biodiversity Management in Bangladesh
by Kazi Sayeed,
Dhaka, Bangladesh

Bangladesh has an enormous area of seasonal wetland. In fact, half of the country could be delineated as such. The area under perennial wetland is much smaller and consists principally of permanent rivers and streams, shallow fresh water lakes and marshes (haors baors and beels), fishponds and estuarine systems in the extensive mangrove swamps.

Wetland resources are crucial to the environment of Bangladesh. Both perennial and seasonal wetlands provide habitats to a large variety of flora and fauna. Wetlands also provide subsistence for a significant proportion of the population through their fishery resources. The fishers of Bangladesh are, traditionally, among the poorest of the rural dwellers. Numerous wetlands plants are harvested for use as medicines, food fodder and building materials. Unfortunately, wetland habitat is under constant threat through human encroachment and by flood control and irrigation schemes.

Because water plays a key role in the country's life cycle, special care must be taken to maintain a sound wetland environment. Unfortunately, most infrastructure development projects have already altered the natural water regime by interrupting water flow. There is now an increasing emphasis from donors and the government of Bangladesh on assessing environment impact of development projects.

Bangladesh possesses a rich biodiversity, especially in the forested and wetland areas. Approximately 5,000 species of flowering plants, 750 species of birds (including more than 150 species of waterfowl), over 500 species of fish, 125 species of mammals, 124 species of reptiles, and 19 species of amphibians are found in the country (Bangladesh country report for UNCED, 1992). Some species have been identified as, either, endangered or threatened. Of the known vertebrates, 50 are nearly extinct and 33 are seriously threatened. Nearly 250 species of birds are in danger. As the forests, in which they live, are rapidly being depleted.

The loss of plant and wildlife diversity has not yet been studied and documented in details. Some individual studies have been carried out to identify threatened plant species and it was found that at least 27 Vascular plants are threatened (Rashid, 1991).

The main reasons for the loss are:

  • Disruption of wetland habitats through encroachment on and destruction of fauna migration paths.

  • Human encroachment on forestlands for agricultural, settlement and commercial (especially illegal) purposes.

  • Indiscriminate feeling of trees for fuel and construction, resulting in a reduction of tree covers areas and habitats.

  • Over -exploitation of particular resources such as medicinal plants, bamboo and cane leading to loss of protective habitat.

  • Over-exploitation of wildlife.

  • Monoculture of HYVs or less diversified cropping leading to agro-chemical build up.

  • Destructions of mangrove forests.

  • Shifting (slash and burn) agriculture.

In 2002, the Government of Bangladesh, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), initiated the "Coastal and Wetland Biodiversity Management Project" (CWBMP). The overall objective of this project is to establish and demonstrate an innovative system for management of Ecologically Critical Areas (ECAs) in Bangladesh that will have a significant and positive impact on the long-term viability of the country's globally significant biodiversity resources.

The project aims to support the Department of Environment operationalise the ECA concept at two main sites. The first, Cox's Bazar (which includes three ECAs: Teknaf Peninsula; St. Martin's Island; and Sonadia Island), is located within the country's long and biodiversity-rich coastal zone, and the second, Hakaluki Haor in the northeast of Bangladesh, is one of the country's largest and most important inland freshwater wetlands.

Results from the CWBMP inception Workshop identified priorities to support the development of an Ecological Critical Area management plan framework. Participants at the Inception Workshop were divided into four theme groups namely: (1) ECA Legal Issues; (2) Biodiversity Conservation and Community Assessment; (3) Land-use and Water Management; and (4) Awareness. Many of the priorities identified by these working groups demonstrate the need for a process that involves the participation and involvement of local communities in a full and integrated manner. For example the working groups noted the need:

  • To interact with various strata of the people and to apply a principle of balanced opportunities for all the major stakeholders groups

  • To identify ownership issues, and to implement activities in coordination with related departments

  • To take into account the traditional rights of the local population and provide for alternative means of enjoying such rights

  • To assess human impacts on ECAs

  • To ensure participatory planning as well as implementation of all activities

  • To enhance the role of women in natural resources management

The CWBMP project is now seeking to address the issues raised by the working groups by initiating a process that integrates communities from the beginning in ECA management planning and implementation. This process is being referred to as "Community Mobilisation".
Overall, people living within the Cox's Bazar site are heavily dependent on fisheries, marine products and, to a lesser extent, agriculture for their livelihoods. Over 90% of fisheries production in the area is artisanal in nature, and the sector acts as an important source of employment. People and their dependence on the natural resources at each of the three sites in question is therefore a key issue. To address this, the Project adopted an approach to conservation that promotes the full involvement and participation of local communities in all aspects and stages of the development and implementation of a Cox's Bazar management plan. Indeed it is now well known and proven the world over that conservation efforts are more likely to be successful when the management of natural resources fully involves local communities, as well as fully reflects their interests and needs.


A Perfect Model for Ecotourism in India: GOR & JAJAMAN
Deepan Bhatt, Mumbai, India

Tourism undoubtedly, is one of the most important economic activity in modern society. The economic impact of Tourism as an industry is second only to the defence industry. The share of tourism in the GDP of Developing countries is close to 40%. However it is important to take a look at who really benefits from tourism. Let us consider the following facts:

  • It has been estimated that the Caribbean countries end up paying 70 per cent of tourism earnings toward importing skilled staff, foodstuff and consumer goods!

  • In Kenya, it was found that only $7 million of the $300 million generated by parks was returned to them.

It is important to see where do the tourist dollars actually end up? Do they help the habitats on which they are dependant or do they end up only in the pockets of local elites and multinationals. Ideally it should benefit the locals.

It is an accepted fact that leisure tourism upsets the local environmental balance and benefits the multinationals. Since ecotourism is projected as a better alternative to leisure tourism, ideally it should reverse this trend and favor the locals and the local environment.

Against this background let us have a look at a cultural practice that was followed in India related to Religious Tourism or Pilgrimage tourism. Because of urbanization there was a large-scale shift of population from villages to industrial towns. However all these people had left behind their deities or as they say 'family deity' somewhere in the villages. Now it was a practice to visit these places of worship at least once a year. But where do they stay? where to go for food ? there were no hotels or lodges at that time. It was at his point of time that a concept of 'GOR' [ host] and 'YAJAMAN' [visitor] arrangement was developed. A Gor was a family priest or a Brahmin family who had stayed back and who would act as a host to the visitors - The Yajmans. The Yajmans stayed with their Gor like their family members and all their requirements including visit to the temple, arrangement for performing certain religious rite at the temple ect were taken care of by this Gor. Each of these Gor families had a fixed set of family whom they would accommodate and entertain.

Now if you analyze this system it satisfies all the requirements of an ideal Ecotourism arrangement.

  • There was no additional burden on the environment as no additional hotels or infrastructure facilities were required.

  • The visitors followed the eating habits of their Yajman so there was no need for any import of foodstuff, which also benefited the local producers or growers.

  • Since the same set of people visited a particular Yajman he knew their tastes and preferences and made arrangement to satisfy the same. An ideal model in Customer Service!

  • There was additional income for the Gor families, which would go towards upgrading their residential facilities to meet the changing tastes of the visiting Yajmans. This was also an incentive to stay back in the village.

  • Even today this system is being followed in certain parts of India. However not on the same scale.

However in certain tourist spots like Goa, a similar kind of system has developed where local residents with addition rooms or staying arrangements accommodate visitors. The only difference to the earlier system is that the set of visitors keep changing.

India, which has tremendous potential for tourism in view of its tradition, culture, virgin spots, historical and religious monuments can benefit a lot but adopting this system may be in a modified form to suit the local tourists. The major advantages are as follows:

Minimal environmental impact.

  • Very low capital investment in the form of infrastructure. [and this is a major benefit in view of the scares resources of the country]

  • Tourists can enjoy the local flavors in a true sense.

  • Cultural integration.

  • Benefits accrue to local individuals and not big corporate houses, which own and control the hotel industry.

A special drive at least at selected few tourist spots could be undertaken to develop this concept. Of course selection of the Hosts inspecting their facilities to ensure proper service and some basic training in hospitality would go a long way in popularising this concept and revolutionarise tourism in India.


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