Mass awareness campaign for Two Eco-sensitive Tourism Sites in Himachal Pradesh

06 Dec, 2019

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children

-Wendell Berry

Forests provide people with numerous ecosystem services like water, climate regulation, soil conservation, provision of resources critical for local livelihoods, as well as abundant recreational values. These ecosystem services derived from forests are referred to as “Forest Ecosystem Services” (FES). The FES approach states that forests are managed to produce services required for human well-being.

Himachal Pradesh Forest Ecosystem Services (HP-FES) Project, which is jointly implemented by the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department (HPFD) and GIZ, convened a mass awareness campaign for two eco-sensitive tourism project sites namely Shangarh (Great Himalayan National Park Division) and Hamta (Kullu Forest Division) of District Kullu in Himachal Pradesh from 6-7 December 2019. The objective of the campaign was to generate awareness amongst the local communities about the project activities and sensitise the youth of the villages on their role and responsibilities for sustainable management of forest ecosystem services. The participants comprised of 350 children and young adults from Shangarh, and 153 from Hamta. Mr. Surender Shourie (Member of Legislative Assembly, Banjar Constituency) and Mr. Chander Kiran (District council Manali) were invited as chief guests at the event at Hamta. Senior forest officials along with Mr. Ajit Thakur (Conservator of Forest) and Mr. Sachin (Divisional Forest Officer) at Shangarh and local forest officials at Hamta facilitated the event.

The mass awareness was organised in line with Wendell Berry’s thought, to show the youth how ecologically sensitive tourism can bring economic benefits from their natural wealth in the most non-destructive and sustainable manner. Scripted street plays (nukkad natak) highlighting the core objectives of the project were organised to disseminate information amongst the local communities. Slogan writing and painting competitions engaging 20 student participants from both the sites were organised at government schools in Shangarh and Prini villages.

The street play script for Shangarh highlighted how birdwatching themed tourism can check hunting and illicit timber felling, bringing ecotourism to the core. At Hamta, the story was designed to ensure that nature-based tourism activities must have an ecologically sensitive tourism theme instead of mass tourism models which aren’t nature-friendly.

The event also manifested how local governance can achieve the objectives through the establishment of Village Forest Development Societies (VFDS). Various trainings and interventions such as homestay operation and management, culinary cooking and processing, static and mobile campsites operation and management, mountaineering/trekking guiding to achieve the objective of the project were presented to the stakeholders.

Local communities from both the sites witnessed and appreciated the event as a well framed and useful one. All possible support for achieving the objective of preserving the forest ecosystem services and establishing eco-sensitive tourism was assured by the representatives of the Legislative Assembly, District council, village panchayat and senior forest officials. The local stakeholders concluded by assuring their effective participation in all the upcoming trainings/events under the project.

©Hira Lal, Ecotourism coordinator

Authors: Hira Lal (ecotourism coordinator), Ritesh Sharma, Advisor, GIZ

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