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Travelling With Environmental Conscience: Here’s How You Can Become An Eco Tourist

By Krishnakali Ghosh:

Earth has not remained as beautiful as it used to be. But if you are generous enough to rejuvenate your love for environment then what can be a better than an Eco tourism vacation. Eco tourism is a nature based practice which imparts knowledge about sustainability and ensures economic prosperity. A far sighted view ascertains how you will see some extremely remote and serene locations on earth, all while making sure you preserve them for those who follow.

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Mesmerizing landscapes, lofty forests, stunning coral reefs, rib tickling adventure sports, there must have been a time you have daydreamed of these. And this comes as no surprise that Eco tourism and adventure travel are the fastest growing segments of global tourism trade. In 2001, India had more than 2.5 million inbound visitors and 234 million domestic tourists every year. The travel and tourism industry accounts for nearly 6% of India’s jobs and 4.8% of GDP, taking into account direct and indirect employment. Western Ghats making it to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites has helped accelerate Eco tourism in the Indian subcontinent.

India is a crucible for major resources of Eco tourism. The seven major bio-sphere reserves Nilgiri, Nanda Devi, Nokrek, Great Nicobar, Gulf of Mannar, Manas and Sunderbans, mangrove forests of Northern Andaman and Nicobar, Sunderban, Mahanadi Delta, four coral areas Gulf of Mannar, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep Islands and Gulf of Kutch are a few of them. The country has a great variety of fauna, numbering a little over 65,000 known species, including 1,228 species of birds, 428 species of reptiles, 372 species of mammals, 204 species of amphibians and 2,546 species of fishes. There are also about 45,000 species of plants, including shrubs.

India has created 75 national parks and 421 wildlife sanctuaries in different parts of the country in order to protect and preserve the genetic resource. There are quite a few trek routes of varied difficulty in the Himalayas conferred with camping sites, trekkers’ huts to encourage the activity. Recent demand of global tourism resulted in the establishment of numerous resorts like Coconut Grove at Kumarakam and Spice Village at Thekady in Kerala. One of the initial projects taken up in this field was the Gulmarg Winter Sports Resort. Initially, the development of Himalayan ranges was emphasized but with the improvement in tourism sector landscaping and upgrading the environment of parks, gardens and other natural areas has been another stream of developmental activity associated with Eco tourism.

There have been few interesting Eco tourism promoting initiatives in the recent times. Madhya Pradesh Eco tourism Development Board started a ‘jungle caravan’ package tour to natural spots on the outskirts of Bhopal. More than 80 per cent of tourism in Madhya Pradesh is centered on nature and wildlife. The state has the largest tiger population housed in five world famous tiger reserves. It is also home to several endangered species including the Gangetic Dolphin, the Ghariyal, the Great Indian Bustard and the Kharmor amongst others. The tour involves activities from boating to bird watching to tiger spotting. This also encompasses an element of education about natural conservation.

Another magnificent project incepted in the ranges is called the ‘girdle of earth’. The Sahyadri or the Western ghat is a major mountain range running 1600 kms north to south, the Kerala Forest and Tourism Department has begun the process of developing 12 wildlife sanctuaries under Eco tourism and will offer Eco lodges for tourists in the Western Ghats. From Satpura in north to Ponmudi in south, this stretch is gaining momentum for Eco tourism and adventure sports like rock-climbing, hand- gliding, river rafting etc.

Eco tourism, if properly implemented, can incorporate rural development and conservation by protection of valuable natural areas, stimulating economic development through tourism expenditures and providing jobs and market for local goods. The effect on the local level can be anywhere from minimal to substantial, depending on the scale of Eco tourism relative to the size of the local economy. Eco tourism provides an all round alleviation to the area as it helps develop a stronger economic base with inter sectoral linkages. Increased economic benefits from intact environment gradually increase community support for habitat conservation. “We can interact with all the tourists who visit the national park. They will understand our culture and tradition and with Eco tourism our culture and tradition will move forward.” says a local at Mahanada Wildlife Sanctuary, West Bengal. Entrepreneurial activities are encouraged by Eco tourism and profits earned can be utilized for conservation purposes. The destination also educates tourists, often on a sophisticated level, about the local environment, and minimizes the impact of visitors on the environment.

Vacationing in the jungles doesn’t make you an Eco tourist, rather it’s the environmental conscience which drives Eco tourism. A less demanding, co-operative individual who takes interest in not just local sightseeing but interacts with the residents to know their environment makes an Eco tourist. He develops an emotional investment in the places and the species he visits and lends support to the conservation actions. A good Eco tourist can surely take an expedition to search a virgin destination. Lately, Eco tourism is not just about following the trend but bestowing some love to the mountains, trees and animals!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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