On the Nature of Tourism: Boon or Bane?

Ulfat Riyaz

Tourism and the tourism industry thereof is one of the fastest and rapidly emerging sectors in the global economy. It now has become an earth shaking global leisure activity. Kashmir, often described as a paradise on earth possesses unmatchable scenic beauty, attractive landscapes, breath-taking splendor of its mountains, glaciers, lush green valleys, waterfalls, unique flora and fauna, fascinating view of meadows, wild animal’s sanctuaries, snow clad mountains ,sylvan canopy, bracing climate, rich cultural heritage and popular pilgrimage destinations which attract tourists from every nook and cranny of the world.
Its physiographic, orographic and geomorphic setting is not only most charismatic but ecologically fragile. Kashmir is to the Himalayas what Switzerland is to the Alps. It is also called as the “Switzerland of East” and has become the most sought after place for tourists all over the world. Tourism in Kashmir has touched new milestones. It not only boosts the economy but directly or indirectly helps generate employment opportunities, brings foreign exchange and acts as a catalyst in development of the overall region. But all this comes with a cost in the form of environmental destruction.
If the number of visitors is more than what the particular environment can bear then it will definitely be disastrous for the environment. Hawkins has aptly said that, ‘tourism is a goose that not only lays a golden egg, but also fouls its own nest’. The tourism industry extremely relies on its natural resources and has significant environmental, cultural, social and economic impacts, chiefly in an adverse manner.
Therefore, tourism is a double-edged sword which on hand contributes immensely to the socio-economic development but on the other side its rapid, unmanaged, uncontrolled and unrestricted growth is the major cause of deterioration of the environment. This unrestrained mass tourism puts gigantic pressure on the area and leads to impacts like increasing pollution, soil erosion, crevices in glaciers, loss of natural habitat, deforestation, pressure on endangered species ,puts strain on water resources and also force the local population to compete for using critical resources.
It has been observed that the arrival of too many tourists leads to overcrowding which further causes damage to our water bodies and surrounding environment.
Kashmir is one of the leading tourist destinations and the number of tourist arrivals here has been increasing over a period of time. Although, it is in the nature of a a positive sign but it led to number of environmental problems and issues. Tourists often leave the places littered with leftover food and polythene and other used products without bothering about its dangerous impact on the fragile environment. Due to the fastest growing demand of tourism industry unplanned construction of hotels, restaurants, lodges and Houseboats in close proximity of tourist destinations is a cause of concern. The sewage water of these hotels and houseboats flows into lakes and rivers, causing serious threats to their marine ecosystem.
Apart from this the lack of awareness is taking toll on environment in Kashmir. Various water bodies including lakes, rivers and other water resources are being encroached by unscrupulous elements of our society. (Even forests are not spared).
If not properly managed, untrammeled tourism can have destructive effects on biodiversity and pristine environments. Tourism is, however, not a less polluting industry; it has increasingly been recognized as one of the most polluting. It has been observed that there is an imbalance between tourist demand and physical carrying capacity of the area offering tourist activity. Under this scenario the expected mutualistic relationship between tourism and supervision breaks down leading to ecological crises.
The environmental conditions have deteriorated and worsened due to a variety of aggravating factors; the overall situation is certainly a matter of grave concern more specially if this situation will prolong it will damage the natural environment of valley so in order to obtain and dwindle its negative impacts. A systematic development plan should be made it need to be formulated, managed, and undertaken in such a way that it is environmentally sustainable, economically feasible and socially favourable tourists facilities should be monitored by authorities to prevent the adverse effects on the green gold of the state. It is necessary that some alternative development strategies brought to the forefront. Tourism development authorities should also organize awareness camps, workshop, road shows and eco-friendly activities for environmental awareness for the local population so that they can realize why protecting the environment around them is essential to maintain tourism and assure them how they could continue to benefit from it.
Now what is required is collective engagement of the administration, eco-activists local people, and communities as well, If all activities are carried out with the full participation it will bear results. The need of the hour is to come out of a perceptible hangover and insist on sustainable tourism .

—The author can be reached at: ulfatriyaz12@gmail.com