- The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), with its rich biodiversity, glaciers, water resources and cultural diversity, attracts a large number of visitors from all over the world.
- According to NITI Aayog, as of 2018, West Bengal sees the highest inflow of tourists, while the northwestern and central Himalayan states and Union Territories (UTs) of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Assam, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Tripura also record large numbers.
- The Himalayan region offers conditions suitable for several tourism-related activities, including recreation, adventure, or religious pilgrimages.
- Tourism is also an important source of income and livelihood for people living in these states and UTs.
- In the Indian Himalayan Region tourism has experienced continued growth and increasing diversification over the last few decades.
Impact of Mass Tourism in IHR
- In the Himalayan region, there are areas that suffer due to mass tourism, while some others have not fully reached their tourism potential. Even within states, there are regional disparities.
- Seasons also play a role. Major tourist activity is confined to just a few months in a year—during the peak summer season, largely from April to June, and in winter from the last week of December to February, or sometimes mid-March, depending on the snowfall.
- The higher density of native and floating populations in IHR leads to more generation of solid waste, ambient air pollution, water pollution, and deforestation.
- In winter, the influx of people and vehicles and other allied activities also contributes to the shift seen in snowfall and melting patterns due to climate change-related impacts.
- As a consequence of all these adverse pressures, local communities and resources of the Himalayan region are at great risk.
Reduce Mass Tourism
- One way to reduce the threats of excessive tourism is by inculcating a spirit of conservation.
- Regional disparities can be minimized by promoting ecotourism (which involves responsible travel and safeguarding of local environment and ecosystems). This includes decentralisation of tourism activities based on the available resources in any place.
- It is also important to develop new tourist destinations as this would promote remote areas to be brought under mainstream development and thereby provide livelihood and income opportunities for residents, thereby reducing migration.
- IHR generates a large amount of solid waste, much of which is biodegradable in nature. It is suggested to use microbial bio-composting.
- Psychrophilic and mesophilic bacteria, which grow in moderate to cold conditions, can be used to break down the biodegradable waste into bio-compost.
- Air pollution in the region can be addressed by creating green belts using locally available tree species that can help remove pollutants suspended in the air.
- Introducing electric vehicles, and using non-conventional energy sources like solar, geothermal, and wind power can be implemented to combat regional-level ambient air pollution.
National Strategy for Sustainable Tourism and Responsible Traveller Campaign:
- It was launched by the Ministry of Tourism in partnership with the UN Environment Programme in 2022.
- Strategic pillars of the strategy include:
- Promoting Environmental, Economic and Socio-cultural sustainability,
- Protecting Biodiversity,
- Capacity Building and Governance.
Swadesh Darshan 2.0:
- It is a centrally sponsored scheme with the vision to develop sustainable and responsible tourism destinations. The scheme aims to promote responsible tourism in various projects and initiatives in the Himalayan region.
- It also aims to create jobs including self-employment for local communities and preserve and enhance local, cultural and natural resources.
- Any sustainable approach undertaken to protect and preserve the pristine Himalayan ecosystem should involve the participation of local communities.
- There is a need to encourage skill and capacity-building programs to spread awareness among different stakeholders on sustainable and economic solutions to threats posed by mass tourism in the IHR.