The State government's Eco Tourism Policy, unveiled by Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on Monday, envisages major role for local communities in its implementation.
Spelling out involvement of local communities as one of its important governing principles, the document, running to about 50 pages, states resources traditionally used by local communities are to be harnessed for eco tourism, wherever required.
Activities and facilities will be developed in consultation with the communities. Mechanisms will be in place to ensure flow of benefits to the communities. Land and property rights of indigenous and local communities will be respected. Any transgression into the communities' cultural sovereignty – their protected, sensitive and sacred sites and their traditional knowledge – shall be avoided.
The integrity, serenity and natural values of destinations will be ensured through appropriate travel choice and responsible behaviour of visitors, who will be briefed about the qualities and sensitivities of destinations. Only activities and facilities having least impact on natural resources and the local culture will be permitted.
One of the objectives of the policy is to secure involvement of the local communities without adversely affecting their cultural ethos.
As for strategies on the involvement of local communities, employment will be provided to the communities by enlisting their services in the manufacturing of boats, cooking, rescue operations and maintenance of the premises. Apart from providing skills and formal education, the communities can be given benefits, keeping in mind the future of their children. Opportunities can be provided to them for showcasing their skills in handicrafts and pottery.
The development of and adherence to rules and guidelines on stakeholder participation, impact mitigation and technical procedures is one among the governing principles.
The compliance with standards in terms of quality and safety in developing and operating eco tourism facilities and activities will be given the highest priority.
The model of Public-Private Partnership will be encouraged to mobilise investment in infrastructure development on site. Creation of environmental awareness among all sections and age groups, especially youth, will be a major activity for each eco-tourism destination. A shelf of eco tourism projects may be identified by line departments, especially the Forest Department. The Tourism Department will act as the nodal agency for clearing various projects prepared by the line departments and their funding.
Priority will be given to development of places, closer to existing popular destinations and lesser-known eco tourist spots so that infrastructure development will be kept at bare minimum. Suitable eco-tourism destinations will be identified and tied up with the existing circuits.
A nine-member official committee, headed by Chief Secretary, will be formed to monitor the implementation and coordinate various stakeholder agencies.