The Biodiversity Conservation Society in association with the Ford Foundation organized a Workshop on "Ecotourism in Himalayas: Prospects and Challenges". The leading practitioners of Ecotourism from Himachal Pradesh and Uttranchal were invited to share their experiences in a meaningful interaction with the experts and policy makers, including some relevant cases from India and abroad.
Wild World India was invited to present a case study in this workshop devoted to the Eco-tourism Product Development and Marketing. The Forest Minister of Himachal formally inaugurated the first session with speeches delivered by the Principal Secretary Tourism, Principal Secretary Forests, Principal Chief Conservator Forests, H.P and case studies from Himachal. The second session was on Ecotourism in Uttaranchal chaired by Mr. R.A. Singh, Pr. CCF, H.P. The Forest Minister of Uttaranchal, Mr. Nav Prabhat made a presentation on the ecotourism initiatives in Uttaranchal followed by Mr. D.V.S. Khati, CCF in Uttaranchal, who presented a case study of Corbett NP.
Vikram Singh of Wild World India outlined the Mahseer Conservation Society's activities, a community-driven program protecting and monitoring the Mahseer along allocated stretches of the Western Ramganga river at Corbett. A new concept "Bio-tourism" was introduced and Vanghat River Lodge was recognized as a model for future conservation initiatives in Uttaranchal and Himachal. The presentation also shared WWI's learnings and suggestions on how to develop Himachal as an eco-tourism destination.
'The hundred or so films that I have made since I left the BBC in 1995 have now been shown on TV in over 50 countries and it seems to me that such films can be put to better use around the world. As we've said it so often at film festivals. When you consider miles of footage and thousands of programmes sitting in vaults out there unused, it seems tragic that the very wonders they celebrate are dwindling, often because no one tells the locals and tries to help. That is why I believe it is Payback Time for wildlife television. The very business that made such a success of the subject, surely, should now put something back'.
~ Mr. Richard Brock (Director, Living Planet - UK)
Home to man-eating tigers, ravaged by cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and characterized by mangrove swamps, the Sunderbans is the most fragile eco-system on earth. It was the apt venue for a workshop on 'Wildlife Films as a Conservation Tool' organized by the British Council, Kolkata and conducted by noted wildlife filmmaker Richard Brock. Vikram Singh of Wild World India, who has assisted in several filming projects, was invited to chair the session on 'Challenges and opportunities for filmmakers in communicating conservation and environmental issues'.
A champion of community-based tourism activities, Vikram emphasized the need to educate the local communities, as they are the true custodians of their natural heritage. He stressed on the importance of screening wildlife films in the regional language to ensure that awareness was spread at the grass root level. While on the trip, Vikram also visited the community-based tourism initiative led by Help Tourism at the camp in Bali, Sunderbans.
The workshop included screening of Richard Brock's films and talk titled "The Way I See It" and also featured herpetologist Romulus Whitaker, who outlined the conservation issues for the 21st century and how to reach out to the policy makers. There was also a presentation on the Sunderbans by Nature Environment Wildlife Society (NEWS). Well-known snake specialist and photographer Ashok Captain summed up the outcome of the conference, which was followed up by the formation of Wildlife Central, a network of filmmakers for conservation in India. The event concluded with a visit to the Sajnekhali Tiger Project Area, Museum and Watchtower.
As part of Wild World India's eco-tourism promotion initiatives, we donated a trip to TIES (The International Eco-tourism Society) as part of their 3rd Annual Celebration of Eco-tourism and Holiday Auction. The WWI trip - Wildlife Viewing in Corbett Tiger Reserve, a 5-days/4-nights tour - was one of the 24 fabulous vacation packages with the world's leading eco-tourism operators to exotic destinations around the globe.
The wildlife trip offered a stay in century-old colonial forest bungalows at Corbett Tiger Reserve and an opportunity to fish the spectacular Golden Mahseer at Vanghat River Lodge, a community-based tourism project run by WWI under the banner of Mahseer Conservation Society.
Martha Honey welcomed over 200 guests at the TIES Gala Ecotourism Dinner celebrating eco-tourism principles. Alvaro Umana from UNDP and Joy Grant of The Nature Conservancy addressed the gathering and auction items also included a range of products like organic coffee and wine. Click here
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Wild World India's Mahsser Conservation Society and the Uttaranchal government have come together in a unique community-based eco-tourism initiative. The Vanghat River Lodge, located by the Corbett Ramganga, has been involved in several conservation activities in partnership with the locals. What started out as Ramganga Mahseer Sanrakshan, a slogan patch worn by the Mahseer guards at Vanghat, has now become an integrated program with volunteers from nearby villages like Marchula, Sankar, Jamaria and Baluli.
We maintain a large stretch of the river and effective patrolling has made Vanghat an excellent Mahseer beat and the site for several activities. Guide training programs for local boys were conducted by Jungle Lodges of Karnataka, that has over 2 decades of angling experience on the Kaveri river. As successfully demonstrated in the village of Bhakrakot, we spread awareness on the need for conservation among local schools through games, quizzes and prize distribution.
As part of our 'Conservation through Sports' program, we have partnered with the local youth to organize regular cricket matches in the step fields of Baluli village. Young lads from 14 villages in the immediate vicinity of Vanghat take part in the tournament, organized under the aegis of Mahseer Conservation Society. Simple educational pamphlets in the regional language are distributed that appeal everyone not to bomb or poison the fish and not to catch fish in the monsoons when it happens to be their breeding time.
LEAD (Leadership for Environment and Sustainable Development) India, in collaboration with Center for Ecotourism and Sustainable Livelihoods, Uttaranchal organized a "One-Week Training Workshop on Ecolodge Planning and Design" at Corbett National Park. The workshop was conducted by Mr. Hitesh Mehta, renowned Ecolodge & Landscape Architect and member of the TIES Board of Directors, along with his colleague Matt Lewis from EDSA. Wild World India, represented by Chief Naturalist Sumantha Ghosh, was one of the thirty participants attending the workshop.
The fragile Himalayas has been witnessing rapid tourism growth, though unplanned lodge developments represent one of the biggest threats to the environment in the region. The purpose of the workshop - attended by the private sector, officials from the Forest and Tourism Departments, architects, academic institutions, NGOs and local communities - was to increase awareness and understanding of ecotourism and ecolodges and develop skills for environmentally sustainable site planning.
The workshop was divided in two parts. The first part focused on creating an understanding of ecolodges, site planning and design of such facilities, their architectural aspects, preparation of business plans and financing, international trends in ecolodge development and case studies from different parts of the world.
Located in the heart of the national park, Dhikala provided a perfect setting for the second part of the workshop, which was devoted to skill development wherein participants visited a site nearby, conducted site analysis, applied the learnings from the first two days and developed a conceptual site plan for ecolodge development under the supervision of the experts.