By Gitanjali Maria:
Jim Corbett National Park is known for its majestic tigers and the rich flora and fauna that adorns the forests. It lets visitors enjoy the jungle experience and appreciate the free-living of animals. I was glad to be able to do a safari of the jungle reserve area recently. Though unluckily, we couldn’t spot a tiger, we were happy to see quite a few deer and elephants.
But a major cause for alarm is the way people expect animals to behave. We were watching a huge Monitor Lizard take a nap in the morning sun, when another group, two families with kids, joined us. Seeing the reptile immobile, some of the elders in the group started making noise and throwing tiny stones. The children followed suit. It took some stern warning from our driver and us to make them stop the barbarism they were indulging in. You come to the jungle to appreciate wildlife and to teach your children to do the same. Not to disturb the local habitation to derive entertainment out of it.
I have witnessed similar behaviour in zoos as well. The tiger would be sleeping peacefully in a corner after a meal and the crowd gathered around it would be jeering and shouting, just so that they can see it walk or hear it growl. What nasty selfish beings we are. I overheard an elderly lady ask the guard, “Why is the animal sleeping? Why can’t you wake it up so that we have a better photograph?” Such stupid questions! How would you behave if someone does the same with you when you are sleeping and that too for a picture?
Tourism should not thrive at the cost of the natural habitat that’s put on display. A responsible tourist is one who likes to see things as they are and can derive pleasure and enjoyment without damaging or altering everything.
It is important to appreciate nature without destroying it, especially when you are in ecologically sensitive areas like hill stations, forests, beaches, lakes, and riversides. These areas are already facing precarious circumstances, and it would be a great catastrophe if man tries to alter them further in his greed to derive more pleasure and enjoyment.
Moreover, the people of hill stations are very protective of their land and natural heritage. It would be a huge disgrace and disservice if, as tourists, we destroy their lands and their homes by callously stomping about as though their world was created to show ‘us’ a ‘good’ time during vacation. Carelessly throwing plastic waste on the beaches; throwing left-over food into the lake while boating; using loud motor vehicles when options of walking or cycling are conducive and easily available; teasing animals and birds that are natural to these areas are all acts of an irresponsible tourist. Such tourists do not deserve to be in such a naturally beautiful and divine place as they hardly hold any respect in their hearts.
While it is important to be aware of one’s action when visiting ecologically fragile locations and terrains, it is also important to remain responsible when visiting historical places. Today, very few historical monuments in India have been left untouched; with no scribbles defiling its walls. Parents do not bother (or in some cases even encourage) when their children deface monument walls. The lack of cameras and security guards in many places of archaeological significance encourage people to profess their love or their anger on these beautiful walls that have withstood time and seen much better days. Would these morons have dared touch the walls or scrape of the gemstones from it had the King been alive and ruling?
Historical monuments like natural resources need to be preserved for the enjoyment and learning of posterity. Tourism – ecological, natural, historical, or otherwise, should be looked at from the same perspective as that of sustainable development. While they can be admired and enjoyed by the current generation, it also needs to be preserved for future generations. They too have a right to this inheritance.