In July 2021, the Rajasthan State Government released the Rajasthan Eco Tourism Policy 2021 with an aim to generate economic benefits after conserving natural areas and attracting tourism in Rajasthan. Earlier in September 2020, the State Government had released the consolidated Rajasthan Tourism Policy 2020 which inter-alia laid stress on development of Eco-tourism in Rajasthan.
Rajasthan Eco Tourism Policy Background
Around 9% of state’s land is under the administrative control of the Forest Department, with 3 National Parks, 3 Tiger Reserves, 27 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 2 Ramsar Sites, 14 Conservation Reserves and many niche faunal habitats in addition to vast expanse of desert ecosystem, the old Aravalli hill range, rich biodiversity, dense forests, host of water bodies and scenic places.
The State Government had released the first eco-tourism policy in 2010 and there was need to update the policy to create synergy between forest and local communities who will manage these sites and earn their livelihood from the resulting growth in tourism activities.
There is a need of having a policy document that enables, certifies and facilitates the efforts of the tourism sector in a manner which is eco-friendly in natural areas.
Definition of Eco-Tourism:
Rajasthan Eco Tourism Policy 2021 defines Eco-Tourism as a form of sustainable tourism within a natural or cultural heritage area where community participation, protection and management of natural resources, culture, indigenous knowledge and practices, environmental education and ethics, as well as economic benefits are fostered and pursued for the enrichment of host community and satisfaction of visitors.
Further, The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) describes Ecotourism as ‘responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people’.
Characteristics of Eco-Tourism:
The Policy also defines characteristics of Eco-Tourism based on World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) as:
- Tourism where the main motivation of the tourists is the conservation and appreciation of nature as well as the traditional cultures prevailing in natural areas.
- Contains educational and interpretation features.
- Minimises negative impacts upon the natural and sociocultural environment.
- Supports the maintenance of natural areas which are used as ecotourism attractions by generating economic benefits for host communities, providing income opportunities for local communities and increasing awareness towards the conservation of natural and cultural assets.
- Considers communities as the most vital pillar of ecotourism in the state.
- Identifies that carefully designed ecotourism initiative shall have the potential to contribute both to ecological conservation and local community development.
- The forest department will be the nodal department for implementing the ecotourism policy.
- The Rajasthan Eco Tourism policy 2021 will remain in operation for a period of 10 years from the date of notification.
Ecotourism activities to be permitted:
The policy defines, Eco Tourism activities as nature-based activities exclusively performed to sensitize people about the beauty, richness and fragility of the state’s natural and cultural heritage, and shall not just focus on creating destinations in natural area or using natural environment for outdoor activities.
Ecotourism activities have to be coordinated by a qualified nature and cultural interpreter trained to entertain and educate the visitors.
Permitted activities include:
- Trekking, nature walk, bird and wildlife watching, hiking, flora and fauna observation, photography, etc.
- Boating / River Cruising to view wildlife and experience wilderness.
- Overnight Camping /Star Gazing in designated sites / forts / other monuments.
- Any travel focussed on experiencing Rajasthan’s fairs and festivals which promote eco-tourism and sustainability of local traditions.
- Lodging in campsites, eco-lodges, homestays andguesthouses that are located in an area of natural and/ or cultural beauty, and involves local specificities and
- Activities in specified areas of the forests such as jungle safari in vehicles or elephant / camel safari, trekking / nature walk, overnight camping in designated sites, bird watching and study of flora & fauna, etc
As per the policy, all ecotourism activities will be in conformity with the existing environmental laws of the country, including:
- Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972,
- The FCA 19802, the Environment Protection Act, 1986,
- The Environment (Protection) rules 1986 and rules for Eco sensitive zones,
- NTCA guidelines,
- Rajasthan Tourism Policy 2020,
- Directives of Supreme Court of India and National Green Tribunal.
Rajasthan Ecotourism Policy 2021 shall be implemented by Rajasthan Forest Development Corporation and administered by the Forest Department Government of Rajasthan.
Marketing: However, for the purposes of branding, promotion, marketing Rajasthan Ecotourism Policy 2021 shall be considered to be a part of Rajasthan Tourism Policy and shall be promoted by the Rajasthan Tourism Department, Government of Rajasthan.
The Rajasthan Ecotourism Development Society (REDS) registered under the Rajasthan Societies Registration Act 1963 shall be reconstituted and will act as an advisory and oversight body for the Rajasthan Ecotourism Policy.
- To implement the policy at the district level, a district ecotourism committee (DLEC) will be constituted under the chairmanship of the district collector with deputy conservator of forests (territorial) as member secretary.
- It will also have members from other stakeholder departments such as revenue, tourism, tribal development, rural development etc. to promote, manage and regulate ecotourism sites.
- The DLEC will be free to invite opinion from the experts in the field of tourism and hospitality sectors operating in their district.
Rajasthan Eco Tourism Policy 2021