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A view en route to Churdhar trek in Himachal Pradesh. Photo used for indicative purpose only. Source: Internet

Eco-tourism master plan: CM Sukhu’s push vs. implementation doubts

Shimla, June 13

During a review meeting of the Forest Department on Monday evening, Chief Minister Thakur Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu stressed the urgency of expediting a master plan for eco-tourism activities in Himachal Pradesh. Currently, eco-tourism initiatives are being carried out in 72 forest rest houses and 22 eco-parks across the state.

Sukhu highlighted the significant potential of eco-tourism in benefiting Himachal Pradesh, including creating employment opportunities for local youth and contributing to the state’s economy. However, industry experts and critics remain skeptical of the government’s commitment to translating such plans into tangible results. They point to the slow progress, lack of concrete implementation, and uncertainties surrounding the fate of proposed sites.

These concerns echo similar sentiments expressed by former Chief Minister Jairam Thakur in 2018. He too emphasized the potential of eco-tourism to boost the state’s unexplored destinations and rural economies.

Despite the acknowledgment of the potential benefits of eco-tourism, doubts persist among many about the government’s ability to effectively execute its plans. Eco-tourism, which promotes the conservation of natural resources and local culture, has gained attention as a means to showcase Himachal Pradesh’s diverse biodiversity, picturesque landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. By attracting responsible and environmentally conscious travelers, the state aims to generate revenue and employment opportunities for its residents.

The announcement by Chief Minister Sukhu regarding the development of a comprehensive master plan is a step in the right direction. This plan aims to address infrastructure development, visitor safety, habitat preservation, and collaboration with local communities. However, the timeline for its execution and completion remains uncertain.

Furthermore, it is still unclear how many of the proposed sites identified by the previous government in 2018 have been successfully developed, or if the “Nayae Rahaien, Nayae Manzilain” scheme has been effectively implemented.

As Himachal Pradesh strives to become a leading eco-tourism destination, it is crucial for the government to address these concerns and demonstrate a more proactive approach. Effective execution and continuous evaluation of the plans are necessary to unlock the state’s true potential, while preserving its natural treasures for future generations.

Industry experts warn that if the plan is not executed comprehensively, it could lead to a situation similar to the overcrowding and littering issues faced in Lahaul after the opening of the ATR Manali tunnel in 2021.

Also read: Environmental Crisis in Lahaul, as tourist footfall leads to Garbage and Plastic waste overflow

The area has experienced a significant increase in visitor traffic since the tunnel’s opening, highlighting the importance of careful management to prevent strain on the region’s resources.

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