Seychelles seeks better air links with India

Air connectivity will help to improve economic ties and promote tourism: James Alix Michel

Seychelles has sought better air connectivity with India to improve economic ties and promote tourism.

President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with President of the Republic of Seychelles James Alix Michel (centre) during a ceremonial recpetion at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

Speaking to industrialists here on Wednesday, Seychelles President James Alix Michel pointed to the “urgent need” to establish flights between Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai and Mahe.

He hoped negotiations later this month on the Bilateral Air Services Agreement between Seychelles and India would lead to an increase in exchange between business persons of the two countries, greater people to people contacts and tourism.

Earlier in the day, India and Seychelles signed a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement following delegation-level talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mr. Michel.

Business opportunities

Mr. Michel said that with the improvement in the balance of payments position and the signing of the BIPA, investment opportunities had opened up for India in offshore oil exploration, fisheries, marine and aqua culture projects; renewable energy, eco-tourism projects; IT and ICT business and specialised restaurants.

Official sources said the talks saw both sides touching on Indian assistance for a tighter security grid that would be able to stave off pirate attacks as well as make the seas around Seychelles safer for tourists.

India has stationed military advisors in Mahe and replenishes logistics for military hardware supplied by it.

From The Hindu

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The big city in the jungle

The tourism industry in India has grown rapidly, especially during the past decade. It now contributes nearly nine per cent of the GDP and more than 6 per cent of total employment can be attributed to tourism, with eco-tourism as the fastest growing sector. Although a fairly new concept, it is hardly surprising that India, which boasts incredible natural biodiversity, is looking to expand in this sector. However, uncontrolled expansion can lead to extinction of the very world we are looking to promote.

Traditionally, eco-tourism is viewed as responsible, ‘friendly’ travel to natural areas that causes minimal damage to the environment, while sustaining and promoting the well-being of the local people and wildlife. This is an ideal that is often far removed from reality.

For eco-tourism to succeed, the government and organisations involved must strive to enhance the positive effects that eco-friendly tourism can have upon wildlife, while minimising the drawbacks that are inevitable if the local people and the environment are not at the forefront of the initiative. To some extent, the tiger census will provide a measure of how far eco-tourism has actually progressed.

There is no doubt that eco-tourism can make a difference to wildlife. One of the most noted examples is the Bandhavagarh National Park, a highly developed eco-tourism forest, which boasts a staggeringly high density of tigers — 1 in 5 sq km — in its tourism zone. This is not a lone example. Nearly every park in India popular with tourists has a thriving wildlife population. One reason that tourism has such an immediate impact is its negative effect on poaching. There is increased awareness, from lodge owners, conservationists and forest officials to preserve their livelihoods, so their vigilance against poachers, and other such local conservation deterrents increases.

On the other hand, in national parks without tourists, there are also few animals, and of course, no tourist will visit a national park that is devoid of its animals. So what is the problem? Wildlife numbers are seemingly increasing, poaching is down and it should follow that eco-tourists are happy. For the moment this is perhaps true, but in the long-term, this is more doubtful.

As eco-tourism expands, the demands on ‘eco-lodges’ increases and an increasing number of resorts are built, at the expense of the wilderness and the natural resources that are supposedly at the heart of eco-tourism. Such expansion also introduces ‘big city’ competition, followed by an inevitable decline in the ‘eco-friendliness’ of the resorts.

Kalyan Varma, a renowned wildlife photographer and naturalist suggests, “There is nothing ‘eco’ about many resorts. They pollute, pull out of ground water and sometimes even use round-the-clock generators.” Contrary to the nature of eco-tourism, resorts are an introduction of urbanisation to the wilderness.

The expansion of such resorts increases the strain on the already haphazard management of some parks. For instance, a Junior Tiger Task Force report found that there were up to 18 vacant forest guard posts. At one point in 2008, 3 of 5 posts for senior officials were vacant in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. Eco-tourism, without definitive management will not be ‘friendly’ to anyone in the near future. Another problem is that many parks do not have regulatory or standardised guidelines for crowds. During peak seasons, they are invariably overflowing with tourists, transforming the park into a circus melee.

Such numbers are unmanageable, and safaris become akin to a race, where the Bengal Tigers — supposedly one of the great treasures and symbols of India — surrounded by masses of jeeps, placing stress on the animal. Some parks may become less a national park and more a drive-through zoo. Is this the compromise that must be made to keep the tiger alive?

One of the main aims of eco-tourism is to support the local economy. Surely, with eco-tourism growing rapidly, this is the least of our worries? Unfortunately, all the money a national park earns from eco-tourism is redirected to a central India trust fund. Similarly, much of the employment is directed away from local communities. In many cases, even if a resort employs locals, it is mostly for unskilled labour like cleaning and is not truly empowering. In the true eco-resorts, there are dedicated training programmes and a determination to train locals for employment.

When I went to Kabini Jungle Lodges last summer, it was heartening to see the local community employed in its daily functioning — a fine example of eco-tourism. The locals are trained in a range of skills from cooking to working as naturalists. Indeed, some villagers may be familiar with the forests and have an unparalleled knowledge of the wildlife and its surroundings.

Ultimately, it is the guide on a safari that can boost a tourist’s trip. Local people have the potential to be an invaluable knowledge source. The eco-tourism industry should design and fund a programme that will be fully empowering to the local population, tourists and eco-tourism as a whole.

A rapidly growing field in the tourism sector, careful management and guidance of its expansion is necessary for eco-tourism’s long-term success. As it stands, the traditional aim of eco-tourism exists only as an ideal. Fortunately, solutions do exist. International certification programmes similar to those introduced in South America by the Rainforest Alliance could be implemented in the short-term to allow tourists to make more informed choices before choosing a resort.

This would hand over some responsibility to the tourists themselves and hopefully relay the importance of this issue back to the industry. But eco-tourism in India can only truly survive if regulations and guidelines encompass more sustainable, long-term solutions, rather than focusing on GDP figures that place high value on the number of resorts and its tourists. Quality of resorts, not numbers is what matters.

— The writer is a medical student based in Britain.

rohitsrini89@gmail.com – Express Buzz

Eco-Tourism – Nerur near Karur, Tamilnadu

Shiva statue beneath the tree

Nerur is a small beautiful village with lots of vegetation, thanks to the River Cauvery. In the midst of this smoothening, rich cultivation, is a small building. It’s not a temple. It’s a burial place. It is the Samadhi of Saint Sadashiva Brahmendra.

Sadashiva Brahmendra lived around 350 years ago. He was a composer of several Bhajans and Carnatic Songs. He was a saint and is believed to have done several miracles. The Samadhi on the whole was built and maintained by Vijaya Ragunatha Thondaiman of Pudukkottai Samasthanam.

Every year, in the Tamizh month of Vaikasi (Mid May to Mid June), an 8 day festival occurs here starting from Panchami (The 5th day after New Moon day). This little Shiva statue beneath a tree there, attracted me so much.

Unfortunately the temple was closed. It’s an ancient temple for sure. Must be atleast 8-10 Centuries old.Mukkudal merely means the conjuction of 3. Here the 3 are the 3 rivers. One being Cauvery, Second being Amaravathi. The 3rd one is the doubtful part. Some say its Manimutharu and some say its Noyyal.

Here within the river were several sculptures in submerged state. These were mainly hero stones which are little human sculptures which are sculpted in the memory of the soldiers who die in the wars. That is a coracle – A circular boat lying upside down on a river side! And that’s me on top of it!!!

Bhusavali

Hiking into the secret heart of Tibetan “paradise”

JIUZHAIGOU, China (Reuters Life!) – A dozen waterwheels spin in a quiet woodland above the village of Rexi, powering not mills but prayers, painted onto endlessly spinning drums.

Barely 6 km (4 miles) away, buses ferry thousands of tourists to visit one of China’s most famous scenic spots, but this small clearing is filled only by the sound of birdsong.

Jiuzhaigou — or nine-village gorge — is one of the gems in China’s tourism crown, where lakes tinted jewel colors by minerals and algae are cradled by pristine forests. Tibetan villages dot the mountain slopes.

But gawping at the scenery is a flood of tourists that tops 10,000 a day in high season, who can make the boardwalks running through the narrow valleys seem like crowded city sidewalks.

For visitors longing to get away from it all, a new “eco-tourism” project aims give them a taste for wilderness by hiking down a smaller valley inside the main park, without the spectacular lakes but with equally precious tranquility.

Jiuzhaigou

Along with a rich collection of plants, birds and animals, Zharu valley hides a sacred waterfall festooned with prayer flags, an important shrine to a holy mountain, civil war hideouts and two ruined villages, that last year had only 88 visitors.

“I wanted to help people get a better sense of the amazing natural beauty here, to get away from the buses and into the wilderness,” said eco-tourism project manager Li Jianyu.

The fluent English-speaker started the program last year after stumbling across long-forgotten plans for a different kind of visit, and has been running it almost single-handedly ever since, doing everything from advertising and translating to guiding, cooking and pitching tents.

There are day hikes, overnight camping and for the very fit a three day trek around the holy mountain, Zhayizhaga, reaching altitudes over 4,000 meters.

WORSHIPPING NATURE

Local Tibetans follow a branch of Buddhism called Bon, which is rooted in animistic traditions. They fought hard to prevent logging in the area in the 60s and 70s, and have always been careful guardians of the land.

“We never cut trees or hunted animals on the sacred mountain,” said guide Langjie, who turned down a well-paid oil industry job to return and work in the valleys where he grew up.

The creation of the park added legal force to the religious injunction that has helped preserve one of China’s most bio-diverse areas, with animals ranging from the famous giant panda to the tiny but also rare Duke of Bedford’s vole.

Langjie, whose father was a blacksmith and grandfather carved print-blocks for prayer flags, told recent visitors about edible plants and herbs, and life in now-deserted villages perched a long walk up mountain slopes to avoid flooding.

Li now has his eye on opening hikes to one of these villages, in the neighboring Hejiao valley — a name that he says means paradise in Tibetan. It is a clutch of wood and adobe houses with roofs anchored by stones, cradled in bird-filled mountains, he says. For now, he needs to show the park that the pilot eco-tourism project has a viable, sustainable future in a country where hiking and camping are only just starting to become popular.

Visitors to the main valleys already stump up around 300 yuan ($44) in entrance fees so authorities are not short of income.

But China has a tradition of nature loving stretching back to figures such as eighth century poet Wang Wei, whose most famous verse, about sunlight-dappled moss in an evening forest, could have been written about Jiuzhaigou.

Jack Li is convinced Wang’s heirs will find his program.

“This is a new kind of tourism for China’s national parks, but I know that we are ready for it.”

(For details of eco-tourism in Jiuzhaigou, go to the park website http://www.jiuzhai.com, email Jack Li at ecotourism@jiuzhai.com, or call +86 (0)837 7737811)

By Emma Graham-Harrison – from Reuters

Thenmala India’s first approved eco tourism destination

Thenmala located in the southern most corner of India in the state of kerala most oftenly punchmarked as “Gods Own Country” and this beautiful small state is visited and admired by a lot of tourist form all corners of the globe,and this state was among the must see destination according to Geographic Traveller. Talking about the destination it is situated in Kollam dist of Kerala  and forms a part  of Agasthaya Biosphere Reserve flanked by Shenduranay wild life Sanctuary where a boating facility is availabe for the tourist.

Kallada bridge

Taking about the genesis the word THEN in malayalam {the local dialect in kerala} means honey and MALA means mountain which all together gives the meaning as honey combed mountains, and it has been told that the money extracted from this mountains and valleys are of good quality and carry high medicinal value.On the other hand Thenmala is also rich in forest product which is a livlihood for the locla people.Shendurany as we use to call because of a particular tree which is called Chenkurany which is available there.

The present Eco Tourism destination Thenmala has three important zones such as Cultural zone, Adventure zone and Leisure zone most of the tourist are youth and nature lovers cultural zone provides the tourist with dancing fountain show,lazer show and doucmentary showand nature related information.The adventure zones gives the youth some challenging activities like Jummering,River crossing,Trekking,Jungle camp etcThe leisure zone is for the grown up where they can just relax and have a brisk walk through the canopy and can have a glimpse of the biosphere the elderly find pleasure in boating in the Shendurany river, battery vehicles are operated inside the sanctuary to protect the flora fauna.

Recently three important new measures has been taken by making a new form of forest called the Nakshatravanam {star forest} where a specific trees according to once own zodiac sign is being planted and protected for the tourist to have a glimpse.A deer rehabilitation center is also operated there and Asia’s first butter fly park is situated there in Thenmala  making home for more than 500 species of butterfly. The Thenmala eco tourism project  is being highly benefiting locla people staying in and around thenmala thus fulfilling the aim of eco tourism.

From EcoPortal

Must make sustainable tourism possible

Environmental protection and sustainable tourism are closely linked to each other and all those related to the hospitality or tourism industry must endeavour to make sustainable tourism possible.

This was the idea that dominated the 25th annual Somnath Chib Memorial lecture, organised by the Inder Sharma Foundation, on Saturday.

Talking at the day-long event, which included a panel discussion, Union Tourism Minister Kumari Selja said the Department of Tourism was committed to conserving the environment and promoting sustainable tourism. The minister said her department has already come up with a set of policies and guidelines for development of eco-tourism and take into account a selective approach, scientific planning, effective control and continuous monitoring to help preserve, retain and enrich our “worldview, lifestyle and cultural expressions”.

The welcome address by Inder Sharma, Managing Trustee, Inder Sharma Foundation and Chairperson, Select Group, was followed by a keynote address by Dr Donald E Hawkins, Professor of Tourism Policy School of Business, George Washington University, USA.

At the subsequent discussion, moderated by Sharma, panelists deliberated upon sustainable tourism and the role of tourism in conservation.

Geoffrey Lipman of the Dehaan Institute, University of Nottingham, UK, said “while Europe remains the dominant tourism destination currently, by 2050, Asia will emerge as the largest tourism host. Hence, there was an imminent need for us to move towards more renewable energy. The shift, he said must necessarily be made over the next four decades”.

Panelists like PATA chairperson Hiran Cooray, Foundation for Aviation & Sustainable Tourism director general Gurcharan Bhatura, ITC-Welcome Group vice-president Niranjan Khatri and IBEX Expeditions chairperson and MD Mandeep Singh Soni said for integrated development of the environment and tourism local community should be involved and economic development of the area ensured.

They said physical planning and design should integrate eco-friendly measures, and a suitable balance must be established among environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development to guarantee its long-term sustainability. The speakers said it should thus make optimal use of environmental resources, maintain essential ecological processes and help to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.

From Indian Express

Yercaud witnesses a tourist boom

YERCAUD: This summer the hill station of Yercaud is witnessing a boom in tourist flow after a lull of two years.

The flow of tourists from Karnataka, the mainstay of the hill station’s economy, and from its other major source, Kerala, has started showing a healthy upward trend this year and hoteliers and others connected with the tourism industry are a happy lot. As the Karnataka tourists stay for a minimum of three to four days to enjoy the salubrious climate, occupancy in hotels has now touched 100 per cent during weekends and nearly 90 per cent on week days. So do the allied industries, which are also buoyant.

The raging row over the Hogenekkal Drinking Water Project between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and recession in IT industry had hit tourism in this hill station very hard for two consequent years – 2008 and 2009. The number of tourists from Karnataka, especially Bangalore, had gone down substantially.

Yercaud during those two years wore a haunted look. Missing were the youngsters working in IT giants, their trendy sedans and roaring sporty bikes. Only 25 per cent of the rooms were booked in those two years.

“The years of despair have gone. The industry suffered a heavy loss then,” recollects a leading hotelier who fondly hopes to cash in on the revival of the tourism industry this year. He has heavily invested atop the hills on nearly 600 rooms with tariff ranging from Rs. 800 to Rs. 12,000 a day during the peak season.

Many have started promoting eco tourism with resorts amid high trees and green coffee plantations. An official in Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation, which operates boats in the picturesque Yercaud lake, says tourists are even encouraged to plant saplings around the lake. The district administration, which is planning to hold Summer Festival during the third week of May, is optimistic of breaking this year the previous records of tourist arrival.

R. Ilangovan From THE HINDU