Notes from Nepal: Cautions about Expanding Ecotourism
Blue Planet Green Living is grateful to Jagdish Poudel, a contributing writer from Nepal, whose commitment and efforts on behalf of the environment are inspirational. Here, Poudel shares his observations of a small village which is engaged in the same struggle as are found in many other developing countries: economics and development vs. sustainability and preservation of the natural world.
His recommendations are prudent and will, hopefully, result in economic progress that respects the concerns of biodiversity and sustainability in the village. This small village mirrors for us the challenges we face globally, in every country. As Jared Diamond warns in Collapse: Why Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, societies engage in deforestation at their peril. — Miriam Kashia, International Editor
Ghale Gaun is an inviting village of about 200-300 people. The village sits 2,075 meters above sea level in the remote mountains of Nepal inside the Annapurna Conservation Area. It is becoming an increasingly popular ecotourism and village-tourism destination, attracting many national and international visitors. Previously, the major source of income of the village people was from international sources, as most of the young boys were involved in the armies of the United Kingdom and India. Because it is a very poor village, the prospect of creating a new income source is highly appealing to the residents.
Six months ago, I read an article about the village. Because I would be traveling to Annapurna Conservation Area to give a presentation to the local people about climate change, I decided to go to Ghale Gaun to see the village for myself. Ghale Gaun is the perfect spot to view the range of the Annapurna Himal [mountain] and Lamjung Himal, both of which can be seen beautifully early in the morning. Because of its spectacular landscape and the hospitality of the local people, the Conservation Area Management Committee and the local residents decided to actively encourage tourism in Ghale Gaun.
In the planning process, the team decided to allow only two guests in each house in the village, which contains around 50-60 households. The major source of energy in the village is wood for fuel, which is obtained from the nearby forest areas. So far, there have been no obvious signs of major loss of forest cover, since the supply of fuel wood meets the current demand. But that threatens to change.
Following the decisions of some travel agencies and local residents, the tourism committee is now planning to attract at least 50 tourist guests per day in the village. This raises a serious concern about the use of fuel wood, and will certainly increase the demand for forest products at the village. A radical increase in wood consumption can be dangerous for creating deforestation, which directly impacts the habitat destruction of wildlife.
There is no doubt that village tourism is an impressive way to enhance the economic development of the local people. The problem arises because the rural village people do not have electricity, and their major source of energy is fuel wood. Increased tourism may well accelerate the loss of biodiversity as the consumption of wood increases.
Concerned groups and individuals in Ghale Gaun must take a close look at the supply and demand of the fuel wood consumption that leads to harmful impacts on biodiversity conservation. Before starting to increase the number of tourists, we must do research on the balance of supply and demand of natural resources in the area. In order to improve the economic status of rural people, we should not degrade the forest resource and wildlife habitat, as that is not sustainable development.
We must evaluate the level of sustainable use of natural resources, even if we have to reduce the number of tourist guests, because sustainable development cannot be achieved only by bringing money into the community. Sustainable development also needs to protect natural resources and biodiversity.
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