Disaster in the Himalayas and Troubled Tourism
The Policy of tourism is governed by the perception that the tourism industry is the key to prosperity in a region. An important element of this perception is the underestimation of the cost of unbridled tourism for the fragile Himalayan ecology.
The Background: A Himalayan Case Study
- Violent engineering: The roads in the Himalayan regions of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh were widened to provide the luxury of four-lane driving.
- Distress: Laborers and their contractors return to clear the debris on highways as all major tourist destinations in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are facing intermittent distress and closure.
- Steps for cutting down the number of tourists are hardly defined in any policy measure. Many among them are facing extraordinary circumstances — forest fires, unprecedentedly high temperatures, floods, landslides, and so on.
The current situation of Himachal and Uttarakhand Himalayas
- Tussle is between discourses: Landslides seem to have made little impact on economic planning in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. On one side is the discourse of development, tourism being central to it in the hills. On the other side is the wail of nature conservationists.
- Who cares? Across the Himalayan region, the hospitality industry does not care for the disappearance of forests or the disposal of waste, which is emptied out on the back slope, to eventually get immersed in a river.
- Rivers are the ultimate drainage: Recently, a 4 lane highway near Manali was washed out by the mighty Beas River during cloud burst event.
The Tourists personality and stereotypes
- Luxury above nature: Providing tourists luxurious access is regarded as part of hospitality, even in pilgrimage sites where difficult access was a prized value until recently.
- Irresponsible behavior: Tourists don’t seem to notice that their travel style injures the hills, if a disaster unfolds while they are on the move, they don’t associate it with their holiday plan.
- Nothing but entertainment: The stereotype can be seen with a recent event of forest fire near a hotel in Uttarakhand, when some foreign tourists started taking pictures, assuming that a fire dance was being staged to entertain them.