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Balancing development and devotion

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Different sectors of the economy

 

Source: BBC News

Context: The Himalayan region has witnessed several natural disasters over the years, killing thousands. The article is in continuation of the previous article Amendment of EIA rule and should be read solely from the perspective of the main.

The religious value of the Himalayas: It is home to temple towns of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri which are part of the Himalayan Char Dham Yatra (Four Pilgrimages), the Amarnath cave shrine and Vaishno Devi temple.

As per the report “Environmental Assessment of Tourism in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR)’” by GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment, demand for tourism has increased pressure on Indian Himalayan Region (IHR).

Dangers: Surge in the number of worshippers over the past couple of decades – partly due to greater mobility and connectivity – and the infrastructural development to accommodate them are damaging the fragile ecological balance of the region, which is vulnerable to earthquakes and landslides.

  • Climate change: Rising temperatures were increasing the frequency of rock falls in the Himalayas, which could increase the danger to people.
  • Revenue dependence: Tourism brings much-needed revenue to state governments – this can reduce the incentive to take tough calls to conserve nature.
  • Environmental impact: Pollution, biodiversity loss, waste generation.
  • Loss of indigenous culture

Solution:

  • Removing “institutional vacuum”: Develop better policies for environmentally fragile pilgrimage.
    • This should include consultation with religious actors who actively participate in the promotion and management of the religious tourism economy at local levels.
  • National Strategy for Sustainable tourism: Ministry of tourism launched this for the development of sustainable tourism like promoting environmental sustainability, protecting biodiversity, promoting economic sustainability, etc.
  • Development to cater to local needs: Current infrastructure development doesn’t cater as much to locals as they do to people from other states.
    • Community-based tourism will enable conservation along with the development
  • Planned management of religious gatherings: India has successfully shown that during the Kumbh Mela, which is held across four states.
  • Sustainable development demands an approach that is both geologically and ecologically sound.
  • Efficient and wider data collection: The flash flood ( July 2022) at the Amarnath shrine was triggered by a cloudburst, which led to “highly intense and highly localised rainfall that our automatic weather station could not catch”.
  • Regulation of numbers: Most experts agree that regulating pilgrim numbers according to the terrain’s capacity is essential.
    • g. Bhutan charges a tourism tax and only allows a certain number of tourists a year, so as not to harm the fragile environment.
    • Levying a green tax on tourist vehicles can be another measure.
  • Awareness programmes: Authorities need to provide regular, updated information through advertisements and public service broadcasters that also highlight the risks and dangers involved in the journey.

Related News:

  • Rajasthan govt has accorded industry status to tourism & hospitality sector
  • New Tourism Policy: The government is coming out with a new policy aimed at making India a sustainable, tourist-friendly destination through various green initiatives, skill development, and engaging with the private sector. 

 

Insta Links

Road ahead for tourism

 

Practice Questions

Q. Evaluate the policies and schemes that are being used to promote eco-tourism in India. (15M)