The Forest Department and the KEDB recently organised a one-day conference to discuss the eco-tourism strategy and announce guidelines to roll out ambitious initiatives to attract tourists. Forest Minister Ramanath Rai shared, “Eco-tourism is a new concept and Karnataka is interested in promoting it to attract tourists from across the country and outside and was in the process of identifying new spots. However, we will formulate guidelines to safeguard the environment which will be our first priority. The views of tour operators will be considered when the government finalises the new eco-tourism policy.”
The proposed policy is being finalised as per the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) directions. The policy would be announced before October 15, the deadline set by NTCA to all the state, Vinay Luthra, CEO, Karnataka Eco-tourism Development Board (KEDB), told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on eco-tourism. “Our aim is not to allow eco-tourism to deteriorate into mass tourism in the forest areas. The KEDB would monitor, facilitate and regulate eco-tourism initiatives,” he said.
He further stated that mass tourism can cause irreversible damage to environment, forests, wildlife and local culture. Hence the Forest department and KEDB will be stepping in to play the role of facilitator and regulator in order to achieve positive aspects of eco-tourism and control the negatives.
Stating that the government will come out with a policy on the usage of vehicles by resort owners in forest areas, he said the eco-tourism development board has chalked out a plan to award marks (total being 100) to resort owners to facilitate access to forest areas. “All resort owners have to follow good practices and standards to make them eligible for accreditation. The resorts who avoid plastic and provide employment for locals will get more marks. Any resort to avail the accreditation should get more than 50 marks,” he said.
The ecotourism development board is planning to provide nature education to school children and literature on flora and fauna of the state. Earlier, delivering keynote address, AC Lakshman, former secretary, department of forests, said mature sandalwood is being sold at `60 lakh per tonne and farmers have been earning Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh. “Farmers can earn up to Rs 80,000 from each sandalwood tree annually. It applies to all eco-resorts and stay homes. This is a rare and unique opportunity to the government to make people of Karnataka the richest in the world,” Lakshmana said.
Commenting further B K Singh, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests said, “The department would have to restrict people coming into Tiger Reserves. The government was not averse to allowing ‘green resorts’ that produce green energy and help conserve ecology.”
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