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Thiruvananthapuram, Feb. 25

DESPITE having substantial opportunities for developing eco-tourism, India is losing out because of the lacunae in the policy and planning framework at the national level, Dr V. Venu, Deputy Director General, Union Ministry of Tourism, has said.

Speaking on `Eco-tourism policy and planning: A national approach' at a seminar on eco-tourism organised as part of the ongoing `Prithvi 2005' eco meet on Thursday, Dr Venu pointed out that the problems created by the absence of a national policy on eco-tourism are amplified by the fact that most States also do not have eco-tourism policies.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to create a policy framework for eco-tourism, he added.

Creating such a policy at the national level will require a vision and long-term perspective at all levels, he said. Similarly, an eco-tourism policy will have to empower local communities and stakeholders, while defining the Government's role in eco-tourism.

Also required will be a policy that adopts a mix of voluntary and legislated regulation of eco-tourism activities, he added.

Similar attention must also be paid to eco-tourism planning by ensuring that sustainable strategies that are both spatial and sectoral are adopted, said Dr Venu.

Eco-tourism planning, actions and policies should be developed with the knowledge that they could be applicable to other forms of tourism. Stakeholder participation and training of industry participants must also be included in eco-tourism planning, he added.

Another important point to be considered in the context of developing eco-tourism in India is the need to ensure cooperation and consultation between the tourism and forest departments in all States, and also at the Centre, he said.

In the absence of partnerships between the forest and tourism departments, eco-tourism and nature-based tourism have been restrictive and largely government-controlled, with no understanding of the requirements of the modern tourist and with no linkages with tourism service providers, he added.

Similarly, there is currently no orientation or knowledge regarding the importance of tourism in conservation and also in generating revenue for conservation, Dr Venu pointed out.

Eco-tourism is, in fact, a powerful method of generating resources for conservation and also for local stakeholders, he emphasised.

Thus, there is an urgent need to evolve a plan of action that ensures sustainable development, harnesses the potential of tourism for economic development of local communities, involves all stakeholders and brings in revenues that can be re-channelled into conservation, he explained.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 26, 2005)
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