World Wetlands Day- an opportunity to adopt Sustainable Tourism practices

 

By Ambuj Saxena

Tourism and the environment are largely dependent on each other. Tourism is one of the largest industries in today’s world economy and is responsible for bridging the gap between developed and developing countries. It acts as a source of foreign exchange for many developing countries like India, Thailand, Singapore etc. Conversely, it is the environmental quality of a place on which the success of the local tourism industry depends. So tourism and environmentally sustainable practices go hand in hand.

Singapore Tourism
Tourism contributes a significant amount to Singapore’s Economy. Source: http://singaporetourism.com/

You might be wondering that why does a company that deals in aggregating Bed and Breakfast accommodations talk about environment sustainability?

Well, if you see both the concepts are closely linked to each other. Would you like to go to a place that is filthy, gives a bad smell or more precisely a hotel that is located in a shady area like Paharganj in Delhi or Dharavi in Mumbai? The answer is no!
However, you would love to pay an extra penny to stay in a Indian home or Bed and Breakfast that smells good, looks good and is hosted well and gives the feeling of being a home away from home isn’t it? This exactly what holds true on a macro level for a country and the environmental practices.

Bed and Breakfast, BnBNation
Beautifully made and tastefully maintained Bed and Breakfast room.

With the advent of technology, burgeoning world population and rising aspirations of people, tourism has increased the world over. This has led to careless boating, diving, snorkeling, and fishing causing substantial damage to coral reefs in many parts of the world. Increased construction of hotels, resorts, recreation and other facilities put additional pressure on resources in cities.

Waste water treatment facilities
Waste water treatment facilities are lacking in India. Pic credits: www.iwa-network.org

More over, the cities are not equipped to treat large amount of waste water. This untreated waste water enters the larger water bodies and pollutes seas and lakes surrounding tourist attractions, damaging flora and fauna. The direct effects of such environmentally unsustainable practices include fish kills, which not only deplete valuable fish stocks and damage the ecosystem, but are unpleasant for local residents and can harm local tourism. Changes in salinity and siltation can have wide-ranging impacts on coastal environments such as lowering the selling price of fish or adversely affecting the health of the people that consume such water and fish products.

In view of the above and to protect the water bodies from further degradation, in 1971, world leaders adopted February 2 as the World Wetlands day in Ramsar city of Iran, on the shores of Caspian sea. The mission of the convention is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands thought local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.” For those who are not aware of the exact definition of wetland, here is the precise definition.

According to Ramsar convention 1971, a wetland includes all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans.

In India there are 26 Ramsar sites which includes Wular lake in Jammu and Kashmir, Tsomoriri in Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir, Pong dam lake on river Beas, Keoladeo National park and Sambhar lake in Rajasthan, Nalsarovar in Gujarat, Bhoj wetland in Madhya Pradesh, Loktak lake in Manipur, Chilika lake in Odisha, Sasthamkotta lake in Kerala etc.

Nalsarovar lake Ramsar Site
Nalsarovar Lake in Gujarat is the latest addition to 26 Ramsar sites of India. Source: www.nalsarovar.com
Wular Lake, Jammu and Kashmir
Wular Lake in Jammu & Kashmir is the biggest fresh water lake of India.
Tsomoriri lake is a tourists' delight
Tsomoriri lake is a tourists’ delight

Among all the categories of wetlands, Mangroves are beneficial in multiple ways. Mangroves are an important constituent of marine wetlands. Mangroves reduce the toxicity of the water body. In case of a tsunami, mangroves with deep roots act as Tsunami breakers and considerably reduce the intensity of waves thereby reducing the level of destruction. There are Coastal zone regulation rules in place in India that prevents development at the cost of mangroves. However, many a time, these rules are violated as was elucidated earlier in the post.

Mangroves, Tsunami breakers, Andaman and Nicobar islands
Mangroves act as Tsunami breakers due to its deep roots. Source: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/

However, a destruction of environment eventually shall lead to adverse effect on mankind and it’s high time we all internalize the same.

Thus, on this World Wetlands day let us take a pledge to travel for pleasure without causing additional burden on the environment.

 

Sources of Inspiration:

http://www.biodiversity.ru/coastlearn/tourism-eng/why_problems.html

http://www.ramsar.org/about/the-ramsar-convention-and-its-mission

About the author:

Ambuj Saxena is Co-Founder at BnBNation. He is a 2013 Brand Management graduate from Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA). He has successfully executed various online and offline marketing campaigns for companies operating in Automobile, Fashion and Lifestyle, Travel and Tourism sectors as well as Government departments. He has co-founded BnBNation as he believes that Tourism and Hospitality is as much online as it is offline, and he can add value to both.

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