THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Tourism Department has taken strong exception to what it fears as the Forest Department’s "destructive new thinking" on ecotourism. Additional principal chief conservator of forests in charge of eco-development Ms Prakriti Srivastava has virtually imposed a ban on the opening of new ecotourism sites until carrying capacity studies were conducted in the 60 existing ecotourism sites within the state's forest areas. According to her, none of the ecotourism activities within the forests had secured the mandatory approval of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Tourism principal secretary Dr V. Venu is livid. “What she (Ms Srivastava) is actually doing is to shut down every activity that her peers have painstakingly built over the years,” he said. “It is the Forest Department that had set the goal posts, but after setting it they now want to shift the goal posts,” he added. Ms Srivastava, on her part, argued it was high time ecotourism was understood as an activity for the ecology. “Now, the ‘eco’ stands for economics, not ecology,” she said. “The way it functions, it is against the principles of conservation. There is no crowd management, no waste disposal mechanisms, plastic is being burnt, and structures are created flouting MoEF guidelines,” she added.
“It is wrong to say that ecotourism undermines the ethics of ecology,” Dr Venu countered. “In all these destinations, carrying capacity is carefully adhered to. But if at all there are aberrations in the running of ecotourism activities, it is the Forest Department alone that has to take the blame for it. And to paint ecotourism activities as destructive in the light of some ignorant mistakes made by junior forest officials is as foolish and dangerous as throwing the baby out with the bath water,” he added. Dr Venu called the move “devious”.
Branding ecotourism as a non-forestry activity virtually destroys ecotourism in the state. “It will become convenient for the MoEF to eternally deny approval for bonafide ecotourism activities in the state,” Dr Venu said. “Ms Srivastava, therefore, is acting against the interests of the state,” he said....