|A familiar sight at Bandipur, Karnataka.|
Though there is much talk in Karnataka about serious Ecotourism initiatives the track record is too thin to ascribe any measure of success to them. The local community needs to be an equal partner in the venture so that there is economic growth and social upliftment: but locals are normally handed out paltry sums as sustenance monies instead of structured programs that will benefit them in the long run. The tourists too need to be educated on ‘responsible tourism’ and their role is to aid and abet the program. However, tourists frequently and unknowingly do the obverse- take the case Tiger-centric Tourism: While looking for tiger sightings from elephant mounts or jeeps, visitors often tip the mahouts or jeep drivers if an actual sighting is made. This encourages ‘tiger-chases’ which is exactly the opposite of what is warranted! It is rare to find tourists who absorb what nature has to offer in ‘passive’ ways: enjoying peaceful forests walks, listening to the forest sounds, and taking in the sightings as and when they come.
Bandipur village in Nepal faced a situation when the highway linking these Kathmandu and Pokhra was built it lost its importance and many of the village-folk moved away to the towns in search of better opportunities. This highway was built in the Marsyangdi Valley, leaving Bandipur isolated on the higher reaches of the mountain. The tradesmen were also forced to move to a town called Dumre; some even to the Terai region, leaving Bandipur a semi ‘ghost-town’. There was public unrest in the area during Nepal’s date with Democracy and many of the buildings (Newari style of Architecture) were damaged. The remaining residents were concerned that something needed to be done fast to save the village from veritable oblivion.
|Check Bandipur, Tanahun, Nepal on fecebook.|
I could not but help observing the contrasts in the initiatives taken up in two towns that share the same name. Juliet said: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet." I beg to differ with Juliet, and Shakespeare, on this one! Here places (Bandipur) and programmes (Ecotourism) with the same name do not smell as sweet.