Chapter 1: The Perils of Tourism

Reading Time: 9 minutes Chapter 1: The Perils of Tourism Throughout history, humans have reaped what they’ve sown, often leaving an unforgettable mark on the environment. Some argue that progress inevitably comes at a cost, and this notion has been reinforced at every juncture of technological advancement. However, the peril lies in losing sight of the broader perspective, where the consequences of our actions are overshadowed by the present, and the future is obscured by the pursuit of immediate gratification. This takes a huge toll on both Global Health and the health and wellbeing of Travellers, and the people living in these tourist places. One glaring example of this short-sightedness is the relentless promotion of tourism, an industry that sometimes takes a heavy toll on the environment. Across the globe, from the iconic canals of Venice to the picturesque landscapes of Himachal Pradesh, the influx of tourists has led to a surge in demands for amenities that cater to their desires and comfort. In the pursuit of satisfying these demands, local communities and corporate giants have, in some instances, compromised the very environment and culture that drew tourists in the first place. There was a time when activities like trekking and rafting were integral parts of life, characterised by a connection to nature and an understanding of its rhythms. Retreats meant immersing oneself in the natural world, using its elements to reconnect with the environment. However, contemporary tourism has given rise to a different breed of travellers who seek the familiarity of urban comforts even in remote hill stations. The demand for luxury hotels, doorstep delivery of indulgences like waffles and hookahs, 24/7 heated water, extravagant yoga retreats, and readily available charging ports have transformed the serene landscapes. Mountains have been scarred by construction, grasslands have been scorched, and dams have disrupted the natural flow of rivers. Nature, as it always does, pushes back. Reports of increased natural calamities such as tornadoes, floods, landslides, and volcanic eruptions have become increasingly common. Nowhere is this situation more dire than in regions like the Himalayas. Recent data from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) paints a worrying picture, revealing alarming subsidence rates in towns like Joshimath. This town, like many others in the Himalayan region, faces imminent threats from soil creep, landslides, and ground subsidence. The precarious stability of these towns arises from a complex web of ecological factors, including steep slopes, heavy rainfall, rampant deforestation, soil overloading, and geological vulnerabilities. Ill-conceived infrastructure projects, including hydroelectric ventures, wide roads, and tunnels, have further exacerbated the situation. For safe urban development in mountainous regions, planning based on a careful assessment of an area’s carrying capacity is imperative. Regrettably, this critical step is often overlooked in the development planning of mountain towns in India. Here are global examples that illustrate the perils of tourism and its impact on the environment: Venice, Italy: Protect the Gondolas! …this place is bloody Elegant! Venice, often called the “Floating City,” is a unique and picturesque destination in northeastern Italy. It is famous for its exceptional beauty, rich history, and distinctive urban layout. Venice is a major tourist destination, drawing millions of visitors each year. While tourism brings economic benefits, it has also raised concerns about overcrowding, environmental impact, and the preservation of Venice’s unique character. Venice has been struggling with the adverse effects of overtourism. The city’s fragile infrastructure and historic buildings have been burdened by the sheer number of tourists. Massive cruise ships, in particular, have raised concerns due to their impact on the delicate Venetian lagoon. Locals have protested against the inundation of tourists, and the city has implemented measures to limit visitor numbers and protect its cultural heritage. (Venice’s Battle Against Overtourism) Machu Picchu, Peru: It’s a Spiritual place, don’t litter! Please! Nestled high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, Machu Picchu is a world-famous archaeological gem. Built-in the 15th century by the Inca Empire, this ancient citadel served as a royal estate and religious centre. Abandoned and hidden for centuries, it was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. Renowned for its exceptional stone construction, precise layout, and advanced engineering, Machu Picchu offers valuable insights into Inca culture, spirituality, and daily life. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, it stands as an architectural marvel, attracting travellers worldwide to explore its well-preserved ruins, hike the Inca Trail, and immerse themselves in its rich history and breathtaking scenery. Preservation Challenges: Today, Machu Picchu faces preservation challenges due to its popularity. The ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru attracts millions of tourists annually. However, the influx of visitors has raised concerns regarding soil erosion, damage to structures, and waste management. To mitigate these issues, visitor numbers have been restricted, and a timed entry system has been implemented to regulate access. Conservation efforts are ongoing to preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Preservation Challenges at Machu Picchu) Bali, Indonesia: Do not put Strain on the Paradise… Bali, often referred to as the “Island of the Gods,” is a tropical paradise nestled within Indonesia. It is celebrated for its captivating blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and vibrant arts scene. The island’s diverse landscapes, from lush rice terraces in Ubud to pristine beaches in Seminyak and Uluwatu, showcase Bali’s stunning natural diversity. Bali’s volcanic mountains, including the iconic Mount Agung, contribute to the island’s dramatic scenery, creating a breathtaking backdrop for travellers. Visitors to Bali have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the island’s cultural riches, from witnessing elaborate temple ceremonies to enjoying traditional dance performances. Alongside its cultural treasures, Bali has evolved into a global tourism hub. The island offers a wide range of activities, from world-class surfing and snorkelling to exploring ancient temples and relaxing in luxury resorts. Bali has experienced rapid tourism growth, leading to environmental problems such as plastic pollution and water scarcity. The overdevelopment of resorts and infrastructure has also disrupted the island’s delicate ecosystem. Bali is taking steps to promote sustainable tourism practices and reduce the environmental impact. (Balinese Efforts to Tackle Tourism Impact)

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