CHENNAI: In the aftermath of the forest fire tragedy in Kurangani Hills that claimed 20 lives in March this year, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Thursday released in the Assembly the Tamil Nadu Ecotourism Policy 2018, which lays emphasis on regulating tourist influx and safety, besides adopting a community-based ecotourism, where active involvement of local communities is the guiding principle.
Sources said Inquiry Officer fot the Kurangani Hills tragedy Atulya Misra, who is the Principal secretary, Revenue and Disaster Management, has completed his investigation and will be submitting the report in a fortnight’s time. “The findings of the report will be incorporated into the Ecotourism Policy to develop standard safety protocol,” a senior forest official said.
Each ecotourism site shall be identified based on the natural resource potential and its impact. The activity should not cause any adverse impact to the environment. Ecotourism activities will be open for all sections of visitors without compromising on conservation of natural and cultural resources of the area and respect for local customs and traditions of Tamil Nadu. The safety norms for visitors to ecotourism sites will be in conformity with the standard protocol.
The policy also proposes to constitute State Ecotourism Board (SEB), which will finalise the strategies regarding pricing and appropriate packaging and branding of ecotourism destinations. The Forest Department will be the nodal department for implementing the policy.
SEB will take policy decisions for promotion and development of ecotourism. It will be a six-member board headed by Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and Chief Wildlife Warden.
At the district level, Ecotourism Management Societies (ETMS) shall be established to promote, manage and regulate ecotourism sites. The revenue generated from the ecotourism site in the district will be invested back for development of the site and surplus would be contributed to the ETMS/SEB for development of other sites and conservation related activities, the policy said and added that the existing Ecotourism Management Committee (ETMC) will be integrated into the ecotourism federation at Divisional Level.
● A management plan would be developed for every ecotourism site/destination. The ecotourism sites identified and developed will have their own uniqueness and value in terms of aesthetic, natural, cultural and landscape characteristics which will be recognised and developed into ecotourism products
● In the coastal wetland sites, activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, walks and boat rides for viewing and appreciating the rich and special flora and fauna can be taken up, the policy document said
● The salubrious climate, the rich flora and fauna makes Tamil Nadu an ideal destination for developing ecotourism befitting the tagline “Enchanting Tamil Nadu”
● The State is a pioneer in scientific management of its forests. The community owned sacred groves have been well conserved as part of the natural and cultural heritage
● Tamil Nadu has 58 ecotourism sites