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Consultation on the ecotourism policy for Karnataka

On February 25th, 2017 the IIMBs Centre for Corporate Governance and Citizenship (CCGC) along with Dharthi, and the Karnataka Forest Department; Karnataka Ecotourism Development Board; and  other stakeholders of Ecotourism Karnataka, conducted a consultative dialogue on Eco-Tourism to discuss the future dimensions and policies on ecotourism in the state of Karnataka. It was conducted to promote sustainable tourism, bring out the issues, resolve the challenges of green tourism, while simultaneously reducing internal costs of ecotourism. 

Manoj Chakravarti, Chief Operations Officer, CCGC, IIM Bangalore welcomed the delegates and participants and emphasised on the importance of ecotourism. The keynote speaker, Dr.  A.K. Bhattacharya, a former  IFS officer from Madhya Pradesh, mentioned that there has to be a clear definition of ecotourism and made a distinction between ecotourism and marketing tourism. He concluded his presentation, highlighting the role of the youth. “Youth are the future custodians of the environment. We need doers and not thinkers.” 

Dr. Dilip  Kumar, a former IFS officer,  spoke about Conservation as a tool for Sustainability: A model case study. He said: “Ecotourism has conflicting factors, as we take people to remote areas, and it disturbs the balance. Humans enter the core and buffer areas of national parks on tourism – so there should be a clear definition on what a tourist, core and buffer area is.” 

Mr. Jose Dominic, from CGH Earth, shared the success story of his tourism business venture in Lakshadweep Islands and Kerala. “Show the tourists the beauty, lifestyle and culture that exists in a location, and not create something that doesn’t,” he advised.

The first technical session was on ‘Sustainability Factors and Policy issues on Ecotourism’. Dr. C.B. Ram Kumar spoke  about other issues like preserving tourism destination, global perspective and accreditation and ratings. He also spoke about GSTC - a U.N. organisation, a separate non-profit organisation, which provides the framework for tourism. He added how its framework can be used as a reference as to what should be done and not how to do it or whether the goal has been achieved or not. 

Dr. Vinay Luthra talked on Governance and Policy issues, constraints leading to Sustainable Ecotourism practices. He elaborated on how Karnataka has stringent rules and laws instilled on tour operators and tourist activity in order to conserve wildlife and the ecosystem. There are restrictions on tourist capacity and number of visits per day. Karnataka is the only state in the country to ban private vehicles from travelling in the wilderness. Only Jungle Lodges and forest department vehicles are permitted in these areas. As a result, the state is said to have the largest population of tigers and rich verdure. 

He elaborated on the Forest Department’s Wilderness Tourism Policy which was introduced in 2004 in Karnataka that has worked towards encouraging ecotourism in the state. The objectives of this policy were  to further the cause of conservation of forests and wildlife. The Forest Department wanted to permit wilderness tourism in specific areas of National Parks, sanctuaries and forests, and use it as a tool of conservation. 

The second session was on ‘Ecotourism growth, challenges and opportunities’, stakeholder experiences. Mr. Kunal from JLR spoke about the achievements of the Jungle Lodges and resorts, and newly introduced jungle trails. Mr. Arjun Kapoor from KETRA, expressed his concern about the lack of formal agreements with the Forest Department, JLR and tourists. He also spoke about how JLR’s monopoly was not giving private operators a chance to develop and expand.  

The Conclave ended with a panel discussion on ‘Stakeholder Dynamics and views’. Panellists comprised of speakers Gerry Martin, Prof. Ramya Ranganathan from IIMB, Mr. M.D. Ramaswami, Mr. Sarath and Mr. Ramki. Panellists discussed on topics such as shift from consumption to communion, changes in wildlife tourism and improving the quality of wildlife tourism, and finally, the importance of making a distinction between mass and ecotourism.