Mumbai’s Marine Drive has a curvy, 3.6 km long boulevard and is perhaps, one of the most famous landmarks in the city.
Popularly known as the Queen’s Necklace, when the coastline gets lit up in the evenings, is an essential on every tourist’s itinerary or for that matter even the locals as they love taking a casual stroll around the periphery of the Marine Drive or simply sitting by the Arabian sea watching the sunset.
However, the same Marine Drive is now in the news, albeit for the wrong reasons. Recently the Arabian Sea washed up more than two lakh kilograms of garbage on the shoreline after the recent high tide.
Needless to say, it was the same litter that people tossed in the sea and other water bodies.
However, Mumbai is not the only city that has been grappling with the issue of sea pollution. In 2018, the Great Pacific Garbage, a long stretch of area in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California, created waves on the internet for the shocking amount of garbage it contains that is choking all the marine life.
All this reiterates that it is high time both tourists as well as local citizens and government bodies , take the responsibility to maintain the sanctity of the destinations specially those that are abundant in natural resources and find ways and means to reduce the impact of ecological degradation.
The NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) is the premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the Government of India, providing both directional and policy inputs. The Aayog supports a cooperative federal structure where the Center and the States prepare development policies together.
Under its vision documents for 2017-2024, one of the focuses is on the impacts of mass tourism in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) in particular.
IHR is significant for India. Stretching for about 2,400 kilometres, the IHR extends from the Indus River in the west to the Brahmaputra River in the east. It covers 10 mountain states and four hill districts of India that make up the country’s north and north-eastern borders.
Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh , Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya , Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttarakhand and West Bengal are the part of the IHR.
IHR also shares borders with six neighbouring countries (China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Bangladesh)
With its towering snow-laden peaks, majestic landscapes, rich biodiversity and cultural heritage, the Indian Himalayan Region has regularly drawn visitors and pilgrims from the Indian sub-continent and across the world. Every year an average of about 100 million tourists visit the ecologically sensitive area which is home to about 50 million people. This number will soon be touching the 240 million mark in seven years, putting a huge pressure on the state’s natural resources.
Some of the proposals of NITI aayog in promotion of Sustainable Tourism in IHR are:-
- Disaster management and Pollution control (including Climate Change)
- Visitor Control Mechanism to track the number of visitors every year.
- Tourist Traffic Management Mechanism to forecast and manage vehicular traffic in the destination.
- Recommended introduction of a “green cess” from consumers to increase tax revenue and assist in maintaining critical services
- A zero waste policy to reduce, reuse, and recycle solid waste.
- Mapping and revival of springs across the Himalayas
- Ensuring that infrastructure such as hotels, restaurants, and road and rail networks in forest areas are ecologically friendly.
- Controlling decibel levels (No loud talking or music in protected areas).
- Resource and Ecology management mechanism, to conserve biology as well as, restore ecology for better management of natural resources and biodiversity.
Tourism is a very complex industry involving numerous stakeholders and requiring significant amount of resources. As more regions and countries develop their tourism industry, it produces significant impacts on natural resources, consumption patterns, pollution and social systems.
The need for sustainable planning and management is imperative for the industry to survive as a whole.