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Resource Center
Is India Trying to Subdue Kashmir Through Religious Tourism? 
July 17, 2018
The Indian state under the increasing influence of Hindu nationalism is using Hindu pilgrimage sites..
“Aswachh Bharat” marks Amarnath yatra 
July 15, 2018

Tourism and Plastic: Exploring the Contours 

June 04, 2018
The threat that plastic poses to the health of the planet has been raising alarm bells for some time..
As Women, Are We Really Economically Empowered A view from the point of view of Tourism 
April 10, 2018

Do we enjoy the same quality of life as our male counterparts? How can we, when the figures of women..

Meet the Majid Squad, a Group that Voluntarily Cleans Filth on Amarnath Yatra Routes 
January 29, 2018
Notwithstanding the National Green Tribunal directions, Governor N N Vohra recently decided that a 60-day-long..
  • Key Interventions
  • Resources
  • Overview

Here you can find the Key Interventions (Campaigns, Events and Other Interventions) related to this Thematic Area. These can be sorted year wise. On clicking a Title, you can read online and download the respective Key Intervention.


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"Here you can find Resources (Papers, Publications and Presentations) linked to this Thematic Area. These can be sorted year wise. On clicking a Title, you can read online and download the respective Resource. Please do acknowledge EQUATIONS when quoting from or using these resources in any manner.


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Tourism is closely identified with leisure and recreational activities in areas of scenic beauty. This has led to a proliferation of unplanned and unregulated tourism into pristine ecosystems with several undesirable impacts on ecosystems – coastal, hill, wetlands, mountains, forests, desert etc. It is often not recognised that these ecosystems have had communities live in harmony with them for centuries, because they respected nature and lived sustainable lifestyles. With the ingress of forms of development that “exploit” nature, tourism being one of them, conflicts over ownership and access to natural resources between the tourism industry and local communities have arisen. EQUATIONS examines tourism development from an environmental angle also linking this to the livelihoods, culture, way of living of communities dependent on natural resources. We believe that tourism development must be environmentally just, respectful of the rights of local communities and sustainable. Through networking with the government, the tourism industry, media and other civil society organisations and with communities we use research to ground advocacy in grassroots realities.

Golf Resort planned near Murudeshwara Beach, Karnataka, 2006The section attempts to draw out the journey of several programmes in EQUATIONS at different points in its history – the Coastal programme, the Indigenous Peoples Wildlife and Tourism programme, the programme on Hill Tourism and what is now called the Ecosystems, Communities and Tourism Programme.

EQUATIONS’ initial work in this area started in the early 90’s looking at tourism issues in the coastal states. Mass tourism in fragile coastal areas places both the ecosystem and livelihoods of coastal communities at risk. In fact an early investigation (1987) of Consequences of Tourism on Fishermen was in collaboration with the National Fishworkers Forum looking at three states –Kerala, Karnataka Goa, had Kovalam and Mahabalipuram as case studies. The Coastal Regulation Zone notification 1991 which regulates developmental activities on the coast was an important first step to regulate and arrest the destruction of our coasts. No sooner than the CRZ was notified, did the attempts to dilute it begin!  As early as April 1992 we made a representation to Fr Cecil Saldhana, member of the expert committee on Coastal Zone Regulation and another to BB Vohra, Chairperson of the Committee. We strongly condemned the move in the Vohra Committee report to modify the Coastal Regulation Zone notification and reduce the no-construction zone in pandering to the demands of the powerful hotel lobby.

Coastal Regulation Zone NotificationThe Coastal Programme initiated in the early 90’s and continued until 2002 was the tool for EQUATIONS to sharpen its lens on the issues of tourism development and the implications for the coast. Our initial work was an attempt to understand and influence coastal issues related to unsustainable development models and to document violations under the CRZ notification by the tourism industry. We undertook a campaign to oppose the government’s plans to convert Bekal Fort area in Kasargode district of Kerala into a Special Tourism Area in violation of the CRZ, and put pressure on the Bekal Resort Development Corporation to make their Master plan for Bekal public. Our campaign against the East Coast Road along with groups in Tamil Nadu has been documented in the section on Tamil Nadu.

In 1997-98, we presented a paper on Development and Sustenance of Coastal Tourism in India in the South-Southeast Asian Convention on Tourism organised by the CII and attended by the tourism investor community. The Institute for Management in Government, Kerala invited us to train elected members of panchayats on Coastal Tourism in Kerala and CRZ violations on the Kerala Coast. In 1998, the Coastal Watch Programme was launched to take stock of coastal ecology, change in land use pattern and community rights. Two important workshops Integrating Coastal and Ocean Space: A task Oriented National Meet, and the strategy meet on National Coastal Zone Management Authority were both organised by EQUATIONS.

EQUATIONS published case studies of coastal locations at Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala in collaboration with grassroots organisations like Malabar Coastal Institute for Training Research and Action, Coastal Action Network, Okkutta Karnataka. These covered a range of topics such as Coastal Tourism in Tamil Nadu, tidal water bodies, Karnataka coast and the report of a workshop on integrating coastal and ocean space. It was evident that the players and the stakes on the Indian coast were increasing in number and complexity. We were keen at that time to expand our work to cover more broadly the “Status of the Indian Coast”, but were not able to pursue and sustain that idea.

Sand Mining at Karwar, Karnataka, 2006In 2000, the MoEF decided to introduce a fresh management system – Coastal Zone Management – replacing the CRZ notification. An important consultation we co-organised “Coastal Regulation Zone – The Experience of a Decade” in February 2001 helped take stock of the status of civil society vigilance and advocacy. Now another decade later, the battle for the Indian coasts continues! Our recent publication (2009) “Why do we need a new notification” critiquing the implementation of the CRZ and the move to a new CMZ calls for a serious commitment by the state to protecting coasts. In the light of the tsunami in end 2004 that devastated many parts of the Indian coast, we assessed the state of coastal regulation and policy and linked the series of deregulation to the devastation that such a disaster had wrecked.

Our work on environment and ecosystems also involved a special programme on hill tourism in the 90s. Much of the work focussed on the hill stations of Ooty and Kodaikanal focussing on building awareness on the negative impacts of tourism. The ban on plastics in Ooty and Kodaikanal were both campaigns we were actively involved in.

With the spotlight on wildlife tourism the issues of indigenous and local communities that inhabit these regions became more prominent. In 1991 a consultation on the issue of forest lands and sanctuaries being declared as tourism areas and its implications on traditional rights of adivasis their culture, economy and environment helped progress on this debate with several local groups. In 1992, a meeting in Gudalur (Nilgiris) on Sanctuaries and Tribal people took the debate further. Developments in Coimbatore, Nilgiris, Mudumalai, Nagarhole, Parambikulam and Agasthyvanam were on our scanner. In 1994-95 we critiqued the draft Guidelines on Wildlife Tourism published by the Ministry of Environment and Forests that pointed towards an alarming trend of tourism promotion being encouraged in protected areas.

Myths of EcotourismEQUATIONS was intensively involved in supporting the movement and struggle of the Adivasi collective based in Nagarahole against the move of the Taj Group of Hotels to set up a resort inside the Nagarhole National Park. The Nagarhole struggle (reported in our section on Karnataka) brought the contradictions and injustice of these kinds of moves to a head. More recently, we have studied how local communities have /have not been able to actually engage with tourism in natural areas in Andaman Islands, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Assam and Ladakh to understand how tourism contributes to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the region.

In the late 90s the ecotourism mantra was on every tour operator’s itinerary. In November 1997 we organised a workshop on “Problems and Prospects of Ecotourism” with the support of Max Muller Bhavan, Bangalore. The workshop had an impressive participation from senior government officials of tourism and forest departments, key players in the industry and activists from the three southern states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The issues raised then in a dialogue between ecotourism policy makers, project proponents and local communities, remain relevant to the ecotourism debate even today.

In 2001 in the run-up to the much hyped International Year of Ecotourism, widely championed by UNEP and the World Tourism Organisation, we were part of a global debate questioning and critiquing this development. EQUATIONS organised an international conference for NGOs “Tourism Towards 2002” at New Delhi in September 2001 to take stock of the content, context and processes of three major global initiatives: The Convention on Biological Diversity COP 6 Meeting, International Year of Ecotourism (IYE) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). The debate on the issue of ecotourism certification and the demand for monitoring under the control of local communities were emphasised.

As participants in a series of international events we have been able to bring in the tourism story into the complex global negotiations: the workshop on Biodiversity & Tourism at Santo Domingo in June 2001, the Ecotourism Summit Quebec in May 2002 , the 11th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in November- December 2005 at Montreal, Canada, the 8th Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at Curitiba, Brazil in March 2006.

Insensitive tourists at the Kaziranga National Park, 2008Our engagement with government systems, particularly tourism and ecotourism departments, forest departments, academic institutions have also been towards influencing policy and practice. Our research and consultancy on “Visitor Management and Participatory Ecotourism Strategy for Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) and Surrounds for the Kerala Forest Department” in 2002 was an opportunity to provide sustainable tourism practises and plans for a highly visited tourist destination. Based on research on tourism practises in and around PTR, status of biodiversity, infrastructure development, management systems and structures, we provided recommendations and strategies for conservation oriented tourism and management systems. In this regard we have also engaged with the Wildlife Institute of India, and the governments of Kerala, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Policy initiatives by the programme have mostly been in the advocacy and campaign mode. In the case of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, we were invited to be part of the Thematic Working Group on Biodiversity, Livelihoods and Lifestyles, and we contributed the Alternative Country paper on Tourism and Biodiversity. On the policy and legislation front there has been the need for us to keep the numerous changes (read dilutions) on the scanner!  Apart from our constant focus on Coastal regulations, the National Environment Policy 2006 on its position of propagating ecotourism in eco-sensitive areas. In 2006, the MoEF proposed replacement of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 1994, and has proposed a further modification in 2009. The new notifications dilute environmental norms and standards and environmental clearance process favourable to the industry. The programme has engaged with industry bodies in a consistent way to raise questions of serious commitment to ecological sustainability. In 2002, we were invited as a member of the PATA India Ecotourism and Environment Committee.  EQUATIONS has urged the government and industry to stop the process of “holidays from accountability”. More recently , we have engaged with service providers, tour operators and industry bodies like the Ecotourism Society of India developing awareness on environmental regulation and reality in the tourism sector.

Click on the ‘Resources’ tab above to read Ecosystems, Communities and Tourism related papers, publications and presentations.

Click on the ‘Key Interventions’ tab above to know about Ecosystems, Communities and Tourism related campaigns, events and interventions.