Promoting Tourism in South Asia

South Asia is home to a solid one-third of the world’s population.Some of the best brains that run the world have South Asian roots or lineage. The region is home to the highest and the second highest mountain peaks of the world (Everest and K2). Most of the world’s qualitywater resources are in the region with the river systems originating from the Himalayas. Some of world’s best ocean resources (coral reefs of Maldives), beaches (Coxes Bazaar), and mangrove areas (Sunderbans) are located in the region. Its biodiversity is unmatched (Sinharaja, Chitwan).

Home to marvels such as the Taj Mahal, Ajanta, Sigiriya, Timpu, and Taxila, the heritage and cultures of the region date back thousands of years. For centuries, the region has been a hotspot for seafaring nations looking for spices and other riches. It was the playground of several colonial powers, and is now home to almost all of the world’s religions. The cuisine of the region is exquisite, and its people are friendly and warm. The South Asian region has the key ingredients to delight its visitors. Yet, with some 400 million people remaining below the poverty line and 71 million people affected by violence or its threat, most of South Asia remains conflict ridden. Poverty, health, child, and gender-related issues are pulling down the region’s image. In 2007, the South Asian region received less than 1.1 percent (9.7 million) of the 898 million visitors from around the world (UN World Tourism Organization 2008). In comparison, Europe received 53.5 percent of the global arrivals, and the Asian region, including East and Southeast Asia, received 19.3 percent. The volume of arrivals to the Asia Pacific region more than doubled between 2000 and 2007, from 85 million to 198 million (UNESCAP 2008). Within this growth scenario, regrettably, most of South Asia saw only marginal growth, with the exceptions of some signifi-cant growth to India and Maldives.

For several decades now, the region has promoted tourism. As far back as the early 1980s, the World Tourism Organization (now UNWTO) set up a Secretariat in Colombo for South Asian Tourism Promotion and attempted to promote the region. This initiative failed because of inadequat support and interest from the individual nations’ state tourism organizations. In the 1990s, the SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) began a Nepal-based initiative to promote tourism to the region. A special tourism committee was formed and several rounds of meetings were held. A promotional tagline “Magic That Is South Asia” was coined, and talk of a regional tourism year was initiated. It was thought that tourism would improve if private sector business and tourism stakeholders took the lead in moving regional tourism initiatives forward. Several South Asian tourism business and trade markets  have been held since the 1990s.

On the formal intergovernmental sphere, tourism occupies an important position. The official Web site of the SAARC Secretariat presents tourism  as follows:

The SAARC Leaders have always recognized the importance of tourism and emphasized the need to take measures for promoting tourism in the region. During the Second Summit, the Leaders underscored that concrete stepsshould be taken to facilitate tourism in the region. Tourism has been an important dimension of most of the subsequent Summits. At the Twelfth Summit held in Islamabad in January 2004, the Leaders were of the view that development of tourism within South Asia could bring economic,

social and cultural dividends. There is a need for increasing cooperation to jointly promote tourism with South Asia as well as to promote South Asiaas a tourism destination, inter alia, by improved air links, they stated in the Declaration. To achieve this and to commemorate the twentieth year of the establishment of SAARC, the year 2005 was designated by the Leaders as “South Asia Tourism Year.” Member States were required to individually and jointly organize special events to celebrate it.

On the formal action front, the site reports the following:

The Working Group on Tourism was established by the Council of Ministers during its Twenty-fourth Session held in Islamabad in January 2004. This was done after a comprehensive review of the SAARC Integrated Programme of Action by the Standing Committee at its Fourth Special Session held in Kathmandu in August 2003. This intergovernmental process will compliment the endeavors by SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) Tourism Council, thus ensuring public–private partnership for the promotion of tourism.

The First Meeting of the Working Group on Tourism was held in Colombo on 16–17 August 2004. In addition to the SAARC Member States and representatives of the SAARC Secretariat, representatives of the SCCI Tourism Council and the ASEAN Secretariat also attended the Meeting. Besides reviewing the implementation of programme of activities relevant to its mandate, the Working Group made a number of recommendations for promotion of tourism in the SAARC region, for example, printing of a SAARC Travel Guide, production of a documentary movie on tourism in SAARC, promotion of sustainable development of Eco-Tourism, Cultural Tourism and Nature Tourism, collaboration in HRD in tourism sector by having programmes for exchange of teachers, students, teaching modules and materials, Promoting Cooperation in the fi eld of tourism with other relevant regional and international tourism organizations. It also proposed a number of activities to celebrate the South Asia Tourism Year–2005 in a befitting manner. When comparing the progress made on the ground and by otherregional tourism initiatives that began much later than SAARC—such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Pacifi c Tourism Commission, European Union (EU) Tourism, and the Mekong Tourism Initiative—progress must be classified, at best, as wanting.

With the backdrop of the frustration of SAARC’s underperformance, in 1997, a separate initiative was undertaken by several governments of the South Asian region, titled the South Asian Growth Quadrangle, consisting of Bangladesh; Bhutan;  the north, east, and north-east states of India; and Nepal. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) supported the initiative under the South Asian Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) programme, which includes a tourism component. This is an ongoing program me within the South Asian development framework of the ADB.

In addition, also in 1997, another initiative was created to link some of SAARC’s countries with Myanmar and Thailand, as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation  (BIMSTEC), to take advantage of the historical link and turning them into economic opportunities. Named BIMSTEC to represent Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation, it set up a Tourism Working Group and has conducted several rounds of meetings, but to date, it has not achieved much progress. Since 2005, the ADB has supported this initiative as well.

South Asia can indeed be described as a dichotomy. Although it has not lived up to expectations as a regional grouping, at the individual country level, tourism development in SAARC presents several unique models, containing some successful best practices.

Bhutan has presented a model of tourism development, in which its operations are based on the model of a kinked demand curve (Sen 2004)to create a premium value for the destination. Bhutan limits access to a few tens of thousands of tourists each year at a premium charge, placing the per capita yield from one tourist at a high level. Bhutan has a business model aimed at conserving its heritage, culture, and natural resources. This model is in keeping with its unique development indicator of “Gross National Happiness,” in contrast to the conventional development measurement of gross national product.

Maldives, known today as one of the most successful island destinations in the world, works on a business model of establishing strong partnerships with foreign investors and tour operators. Beginning with investments from Sri Lankan conglomerates in the early 1980s (still accounting for about 20 percent of all hotel rooms), Maldives Tourism, offering the “sunny side of life” as its positioning platform is driven by some of the best international and regional brand names in the island tourism business.

Nepal is an example of a pioneering brand of unique community based tourism initiative. With its early model of the Annapurna Tourism Development Project8 and the Bhakthipur Conservation Project9 of the 1980s, Nepal introduced a good tourism operational model, offering its unique nature and heritage conservation, community benefit, and sustainable funding features.

Sri Lanka is addressing the challenge of global warming and climate change faced by all nations of the world. It has extended its conventional position as a tourist destination of a treasured island with a warm people offering nature, culture, and adventure to include an extensive green cover. Through its Tourism Earth Lung initiative it is working toward being a carbon-neutral destination by 2018.

Extract from the World Bank Report on Promoting Economic Cooperation in South Asia. – From Daily Mirror

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Thanjavur: Asia can meet water, energy challenges

Nanotechnologists in Asia outnumber those in the U.S.

Asia is all set to be show the way to the rest of the world

Nanotechnology has the answers to face these challenges

THANJAVUR: Asian countries were geared up to face the global challenges of drinking water, energy and healthcare sectors, said Seeram Ramakrishna, Vice-President (Research Strategy), National University of Singapore, here recently.

Inaugurating the Asian conference on Recent Advances in Polymer Science (RAPS 2010) at Shanmugha Arts Science Technology and Research Academy (SASTRA) University, Prof. Ramakrishna pointed out that Asia invested US $ 400 billion in research and development which was on par with that in the United States.

Growing population, continued exploitation of natural resources and increased life expectancy have brought to the fore three key challenges, namely water, energy and healthcare.

Prof. Ramakrishna said that Asia currently had 400 million people above 60 years which was expected to increase to a whopping 1,231 million by 2030. Nanotechnology had the potential answers to face these challenges. The number of nanotechnologists in Asia outnumbered those in the United States and, therefore, Asia was all set to be show the way to the rest of the world.

He described various advanced technologies that had been developed in Asian laboratories using polymeric and metal oxide nano fibres made by a versatile technique called electro-spinning which was pioneered by Prof. Ramakrishna.

Examples of polymeric nanofibrous scaffolds for regenerating nerves, heart tissue, skin and bone, metal oxide nanofibres for photovoltaic applications, polymeric membranes for ultrafiltration applications were highlighted during his talk.

The two-day conference organised by the Department of Chemistry of SASTRA University, had eminent speakers from Indian Institute of Science, National Chemical Laboratory, Indian Association for Cultivation of Science, Sree Chitra Thirunal Institute for Medical Science & Research, Anna University and Central Electrochemical Research Institute addressing the participants on advances made in high temperature polymers, polymeric nano-composites, medical polymers, industrial and conducting polymers.

K. Uma Maheswari, Associate Dean, Chemistry and Bioengineering, welcomed the gathering and D. Venkatesan, convenor, proposed the vote of thanks.

From THE HINDU

India: Youth camp to discuss democracy, global warming, promote dialogue

The Centre for Youth Development and Activities (CYDA) will organise a week-long youth camp on democracy, diversity, plurality, global warming and youth participation from February 1-5 in Pune.

It aims to promote youth-to-youth dialogue within the different South Asian countries.

CYDA expects around 80 youth from the Asian sub-continent, that is India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Srilanka, Maldives and Myanmar between the age group of 1825 years.

The first such programme organised by CYDA in Pune was in 2005 when around 25 Pakistani Youth stayed at CYDA youth volunteers homes for three days in Pune.

The second such larger programme was organised in 2007 in which more than 100 youth from different South Asian countries participated and deliberated on various issues of democracy and peace.

From Indian Express

WWF: Rhino poaching surges in Asia, Africa

Geneva, Switzerland – Rhino poaching worldwide is on the rise, according to a new report by TRAFFIC and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The trade is being driven by Asian demand for horns and is made worse by increasingly sophisticated poachers, who now are using veterinary drugs, poison, cross bows and high caliber weapons to kill rhinos, the report states.

Since 2006 the majority (95 percent) of the poaching in Africa has occurred in Zimbabwe and South Africa, according to new data.

Rhino poaching worldwide is up, according to a new report - © Vivek Raj Maurya

“These two nations collectively form the epicentre of an unrelenting poaching crisis in southern Africa,” said Tom Milliken of TRAFFIC.

The report, which was submitted to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) ahead of its 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP15) in March, documents a decline in law enforcement effectiveness and an increase in poaching intensity in Africa. The situation is most serious in Zimbabwe where rhino numbers are now declining and the conviction rate for rhino crimes in Zimbabwe is only three percent. Despite the introduction of a number of new measures, poaching and illicit horn trade in South Africa has also increased.

“Concerted action at the highest level is needed to stop this global crisis of rampant rhino poaching,” said Amanda Nickson, Director of the Species Programme at WWF International. “We call on the countries of concern to come to COP 15 in March with specific actions they have undertaken to show their commitment to stopping this poaching and protecting rhinos in the wild.”

The report also raises concerns regarding the low and declining numbers as well as the uncertain status of some of the Sumatran and Javan rhino populations in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

“Sumatran and Javan rhino range countries need to increase efforts to better assess the current status of many of their rhino populations – to enhance field law enforcement efforts – prevent further encroachment and land transformation in rhino areas – and improve biological management of remaining rhinos to ensure the few remaining Sumatran and Javan Rhino numbers increase,” said Dr. Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group

Most rhino horns leaving southern Africa are destined for medicinal markets in southeast and east Asia, especially Vietnam, and also China. The report highlights Vietnam as a country of particular concern – noting that Vietnamese nationals operating in South Africa have recently been identified in rhino crime investigations. In addition, concern has been expressed about the status of Vietnam’s single Javan rhino population.

However, the report does note that in some areas populations of rhinos are increasing.

“Where there is political will, dedicated conservation programs and good law enforcement, rhino numbers have increased in both Africa and Asia,” said Dr Richard Emslie, Scientific Officer of IUCN’s African Rhino Specialist Group.

IUCN’s Rhino Specialist Groups and TRAFFIC were mandated to produce the report by CITES. The data collection and report writing for the report was partially funded by WWF and partners.

From WWF

300 mln children trapped in poverty in S Asia: UNICEF

DHAKA, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) — New data unveiled by the United Nations’ children agency Sunday showed that 300 million children are trapped in poverty in South Asia — almost half of the children in the region.

    The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) presented the new data at a regional conference in Bangladesh capital Dhaka Sunday while convening leaders of the region to explore new ways for addressing children’s seven basic needs, including food, education and health.

unicef3-food

In pictures: Feeding the world

    “We now have a better understanding of the real depth of how poverty affects children — not just as a side effect of their parents’ income but their own profound deprivation,” said UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, Daniel Toole, while speaking at the conference.

    “Unlike any other region in the world, due to persistent and deep inequalities in the region, children in South Asia become trapped in an unrelenting cycle of discrimination at several levels– poor nutrition, health and sanitation and being excluded from education,” he said in the conference styled “Achieving Child Well-being and Equity in South Asia.”

    This puts a child’s face to chronic poverty so we can now design more strategic policies, he added.

    UNICEF, on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence, is proposing that a shift in the definition of poverty needs to take place — away from a narrow measurement that addresses income exclusively to a definition that includes income poverty, deprivation and well-being, said a paper provided by the UNICEF.

    It said this approach can result in comprehensive policy responses that target a more holistic approach to achieving children’s well-being.

    In the first day of the three-day conference, the government officials, the UNICEF and the civil society of South Asia region examined ways of using this new approach to pinpoint efforts to tackle child poverty.

    Delegates as well as government officials, academics, and other groups working to eliminate child poverty from the region, representatives from UNICEF and other U.N. agencies and development partners from across South Asia are attending the conference which will close Nov. 3.

    Over the past decade, the UNICEF said child poverty rates in South Asia have stagnated or even worsened in some areas, raising grave concerns about children’s well-being.

    “Investing in children is both a fundamental responsibility and an opportunity that, if not grabbed now, will tarnish a nation’s growth,” Toole said in his speech.

    He said this is a responsibility because poverty and under-nutrition damages a child’s chance to thrive and also hampers the potential of countries to develop.

    More than other interventions, investing resources into good nutrition, primary health care, education and protection for children will provide rich rewards in future, Toole said.

    According to the UNICEF paper, key interventions that require investment include scaling-up national programs on nutrition and associated health interventions, including community-based management of acute malnutrition, newborn and maternal health initiatives.

    It said support to basic health services through childhood, youth and early adulthood for women, as well as improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene and education are also required.

From ChinaView

WWF: Kathmandu workshop sets stage for Year of the Tiger 2010

Leading tiger experts, wildlife conservation charities, and representatives of governments of countries that have wild tiger ranges are meeting in Nepal this week to begin a global dialogue about the threats facing tigers as the world prepares to mark the Year of the Tiger in 2010, WWF says in a news statement.

Amur or Siberian tiger in a rehabilitation center for wild animals in the Russian Far East. - Photo © Vladimir Filonov / WWF-Canon

WWF and others are attending the Kathmandu Global Tiger Workshop, the first in a series before and during the Year of the Tiger, that brings together decisionmakers from tiger range countries, members of the World Bank’s Global Tiger Initiative, NGOs and the world’s leading tiger experts, the Switzerland-based conservation group said.

“They will discuss the specific actions required to halt the extinction of the tiger in the wild.”

“Tiger populations are still in steep decline and some estimates predict that tigers could be extinct in the wild by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022.”

“Wild tiger populations are at a tipping point,” WWF said. “While many important successes have been gained by the global conservation community, tiger populations are still in steep decline and some estimates predict that tigers could be extinct in the wild by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022.”

Indian tiger female in the Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan, India - Photo © Michel Terrettaz / WWF-Canon

The Kathmandu Global Tiger Workshop is hosted by the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Government of Nepal, and co-organized and co-sponsored by the CITES Secretariat, Global Tiger Forum, Global Tiger Initiative, Save The Tiger Fund, and the World Bank.

WWF hopes to secure major political commitments for tiger conservation, through the series of political negotiation meetings occurring throughout the Year of the Tiger and leading up to a final Heads of State Tiger Summit in September 2010.

Indian Tiger, sitting, showing his back, Bangkok Zoo Thailand - Photo © Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon

Effective conservation of tigers can provide an umbrella for all biodiversity, according to the World Bank, which joined forces with conservation groups to launch the Tiger Conservation Initiative in 2008.

Tiger conservation is thus vital to the conservation of many other rare and threatened species, as well as to sustaining essential ecosystem-services that forests provide, such as watershed protection, soil conservation and carbon storage, the Bank says on its Web site.

The skins of Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) and other rare cats are openly displayed for sale in Cholon District, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. October 2002. - Photo © Adam Oswell / WWF-Canon

“Despite their ecological significance, tiger populations are in decline,” the Bank adds.

“Tigers occupy only 7 percent of their historic range, and in the last decade their habitats have shrunk significantly. Within a century, wild tiger numbers have plunged from more than 100,000 to about 4,000 animals.

Clearing of tropical rainforest for paper industry, palm oil and other plantations in, Sumatra, Indonesia - Photo © WWF-Germany/M. Radday

“Tigers have already disappeared from Central Asia, Java and Bali in Indonesia, and most of China.

Indian tiger close-up, Bangkok Zoo, Thailand - Photo © Martin Harvey/WWF-Canon

“Habitat loss, combined with intense poaching of prey species and the illegal trade in tiger parts, has taken a severe toll, with entire populations eliminated from what were once considered secure reserves.”

From National Geographic

Seven Asian countries discuss water cooperation in UAE

Abu Dhabi, Oct 23 (IANS) Officals of seven South Asian countries met here Oct 22-23 to promote water cooperation on the rivers of greater Himalayan region, WAM news agency reported.

Government officials, politicians and water experts from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan participated in the conference.

The theme of the meeting was “First International Conference on Southern Asia Water Cooperation”.

“Around 40 percent of the world’s population and 50 percent of the farm land depend on more than 245 rivers (in the region). Despite this fact, there are no international agreements that govern the use of these resources,” Mohammed Al Bowardi, managing director of Abu Dhabi environment agency (EAD) said at the conference Thursday.

“This drives us to be even more careful with he management and distribution of these important resources to avoid conflict among countries with shared borders,” he said.

“I would like to take this opportunity to invite all participants in this dialogue to develop the necessary frameworks to contribute to global efforts to protect our natural resources and to mitigate the effects of climate change, because of their significant environmental, economic and political impact,” he added.

From SindhToday