PRESERVING TOURIST SPOTS FOR POSTERITY
Jim Corbett National Park is known for its majestic tigers and the rich flora and fauna. It lets visitors enjoy the jungle experience and appreciate the free living of animals. I was glad I was able to do a safari of the jungle reserve area (Sitavani) late this year. Though unlucky to spot the tiger, we were happy to have seen plenty of deer and elephants. But what is cause for alarm is the way people expect animals to be. We were watching a huge Monitor Lizard nap in the morning sun when another group, two families with kids, joined us.
Seeing the animal making no movement, some of the elders in the group tried disturbing it by making noises and throwing tiny stones. The children also started doing the same. It took some stern warning from us and our driver to make them stop their behaviour. You have come to the jungles to appreciate the wild life and to teach your children also to do the same, and not to disturb them or to get the animals to do things to your liking.
I have seen that in the zoo too. The tiger would be sleeping peacefully in a corner after a meal and the crowd gathered around it would be jeering and shouting, just so that they can see it walk or hear it growl. What nasty selfish beings we are! I heard a lady ask the guard, “Why is the animal sleeping? Why can’t you wake it up so that we have a better photograph?” Such stupid questions! How would you behave if someone does the same with you when you are sleeping?
Tourism should not be at the cost of those that you have come to see, enjoy and appreciate. A responsible tourist is one who likes to see things as they are and is able to derive pleasure and enjoyment without damaging or altering the way things have been preserved or protected.
It is important to be appreciative of the nature without destroying it especially when you are in ecologically sensitive areas like hill stations, forest areas, beaches and lake/riversides. These areas have a precarious balance and it would be a great catastrophe if man tries to alter it in his greed to derive more pleasure and enjoyment.
Moreover the people of hill stations are very protective of their land and natural heritage and it would be a huge disgrace and disservice that we are doing to these people as tourists if we destroy their land and their homes. Carelessly throwing plastic waste on the beaches, throwing left-over food into the lake while boating, using motor vehicles when walking or cycling could have been used, teasing animals and birds that are natural to these areas are all acts of an irresponsible tourist. Such tourists actually do not deserve to be in such a naturally beautiful and divine place.
While it is important to be extra sensitive while visiting ecologically fragile eco-systems and hill stations, it is also important to remain responsible when visiting historical places and monuments. There are very few historical monuments in India that are left untouched of scribbles on its walls. And the fact that parents do not bother (or in some cases even encourage) when their children deface monument walls is a very sad matter. The lack of cameras and security guards in many places of archaeological significance encourage people to profess their love or their anger on these beautiful walls that have withstood time and seen better days. Would these morons have dared touch the walls or scrape of the gemstones from it had the king been alive and ruling?
Historical monuments like natural resources need to be preserved for the enjoyment and learning of posterity. Tourism - ecological, historical or otherwise, should be looked at from the perspective of sustainable development. While they can be admired and enjoyed by the current generation, it also needs to be preserved for future generations. They too have a right to this inheritance.
There are also more subtle actions that a tourist needs to be aware of to be responsible and courteous in his/her ways and means during travel. This includes respecting the local culture and traditions. It may be as simple as covering your head when entering a temple or not wasting the food offered. A responsible tourist studies about the place he/she is planning to visit and tries to understand the customs and ways of life there. Talking courteously and politely with the hosts can also help the tourist understand a lot about the culture and practices of the place.
Visitors should also try to minimize plastic usage and re-use things while on travel rather than buy new items each day and throw them off after momentary use. Using handkerchiefs instead of tissues, getting own water bottles rather than buying new ones every time and carrying a rucksack or backpack instead of asking shopkeepers for plastic covers can help. Tourists are also encouraged to try out local cuisines and other products and give a boost to the local economy.
Tourists should also not be noisy and disturbing to the local population and to other tourists, especially when travelling in groups. Maintaining decorum wherever they might be during their travel, be it restaurants, parks, rope-ways or any other place, is important. They should also teach their children to be responsible while travelling.
Another scene often encountered is of groups of youth drinking in public in some of these tourists locations and making it uncomfortable and difficult for families and ladies. Police should take strict action against people indulging in such activities and making travelling/trekking difficult for others.
Ensuring their own and others safety is also an important aspect of responsible travelling. Not venturing out too late if the place is deserted, taking along necessary medicines, being cautious of the surroundings - all form a part of responsible travelling.
The hotels, tour operators and other in the tourism business should also do their bit of recycling and re-using of materials, conservation of energy and use of renewable sources and ensure cleanliness of the place to promote sustainable tourism. They should be mindful of the need for preservation of nature while they make a livelihood out of it. Greed should not cloud their eyes that they try to do reckless business forgetting the fragility of the environment in which they live. They should also remind the guests of the need to be responsible and encourage them in indulging in responsible activities.
While it is difficult for policing of tourists all the time and at every place, it is more important that the tourist becomes conscious of the need for preserving the tourist spots. How many times have we lamented that the beach has become dirty or the hill station turned a garbage dump yard? It is our duty to do our bit to ensure that we preserve these beauties and let the coming generations too enjoy it.