-By Devina Das, Xavier School of Sustainability, Xavier University Bhubaneswar, Odisha
In the ancient times, humans never had to pay much attention to the Earth’s limitations. For several years, our activities have been such that no major impact could be caused by them. This was mainly because the needs, or rather the greeds were less. But after all, we are the descendants of Adam and Eve, and in all of us lurks a secret desire to venture into fields previously untouched and ethically forbidden. With gradual evolution from getting into agriculture, to discovery of metals, to transportation; humans didn’t realise that they were taking baby steps towards creating an irreversible change in the world. And then, in came Industrial Revolution! The world still thanks the makers of these changes; our life wouldn’t have been remotely as comfortable if it hadn’t been for these pioneers. But in retrospect, were these advancements really necessary? Yes, almost all of them were, but if only humans could differentiate between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’, the story would have been quite different today. The impact is not just related to the areas where the changes are taking place. Industrial emissions from the world around are causing the ice at the poles to melt. The melting ice of
the poles is threatening to submerge the Small Island Development States. This explains the domino effect climate change caused primarily by anthropogenic activities.
As a student of Sustainability Management, I had been sent to work with CHINAR (Central Himalayan Institute for Nature) in a small village in the majestic mountains of Uttarakhand, named Liti. My work was to develop home stays in the villages of Liti and Gogina for the purpose of eco-tourism spots. These villages, almost virgin to tourism activities, also showed stark evidences of climate change. Nonetheless the villages have still managed to preserve its natural beauty and there itself was half of my work done. What can attract people more than the prospect of spending some days in the lap of nature, surrounded by scenic views of the majestic Himalayas. The spine-chilling cold weather will be compensated by the warmth of the people’s welcome there. During my one month stay there, I made some bonds that will last a lifetime.
As for the tourism prospects, Liti and Gogina are idyllic village locations where a quiet family holiday can be spent. The villages provide gorgeous view of vast expanse of greenery surrounded by lofty peaks, and to break the monochrome, there’s a waterfall amidst this green expanse and from April onwards red would take over the green with the rhododendrons blooming. The views these villages provide are enough to lure people for a lazy family vacation of 3-4 days.
Another set of stakeholders who can be attracted by the hills and meadows are destination wedding planners. Destination weddings are a craze nowadays and this untouched area’s resources can be harnessed sustainably for this purpose. The places have the perfect scenery which wedding planners feed upon and during spring it only becomes more heavenly with rhododendrons painting the mountains red. Home stays can serve as a lodging for the guests invited, thus this kills two birds with one stone- promotion of the culture and heritage of the local population as well as revenue from tourism activities, because guests are bound to visit nearby tourist spots and avail of the established tourism activities. The villages can also serve as ideal locations for film shooting because of the views they offer and again the film crew can put up in the home stays that have been developed in these areas.
These places also have immense potential of being developed as a popular bird watching zone. Exotic bird species like Himalayan Griffon (Gypsy himalayansis), Black headed jay (Garrulus lauceolatus), Kalij pheasant (Lophura leucomelanos), Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), Grey headed woodpecker (Picsus canus), Red billed blue magpie (Urocissa erythroryncha), few of which are endemic to the Himalaya. Experts also briefed that it’s a paradise for bird watchers due to high diversity of birds and also for the migratory birds visiting these sites. Uttarakhand Tourism has been organizing yearly treks to different places in the state and as Trek of the Year, 2018, Namik has been selected. Namik lies at a distance of 22km from Liti and 4km from Gogina. Namik
houses Namik and Hiramani glacier from which the Ramganga River originates. So Liti has been declared as the base camp for this trek. Home stays can serve as ideal resting places for the trekkers. Apart from this there are other trekking routes that have Liti or Gogina falling en route, so there is a lot of prospect for the home stays and camping.
Liti and Gogina can be a paradise for people in the academic line and the academicians can range from botanists, zoologists, environmentalists, geologists, sustainability professionals.etc. There are myriad exotic bird species that adorn these areas, the blue-tailed Himalayan magpie being the most popular of them. Other bird species are Grey Bushchat, Blue whistling thrush, Streaked laughing thrush, Green backed tit, Myna, Himalayan crow; Griffon vulture, Drango, Khalij Pheasants.etc. This area is ecologically very rich with diversified flora and fauna. The flora of the district includes many Bryophytes, Pteridophytes, Gymnosperms and Angiosperms. Rare varieties of rhododendrons are also present in the high altitude. The prominent floral species are Quercus species: Quercus leucotrichophora; Quercus floribunda, Q. semicarpifolia, Q. lanuginosa, oak (Quercus family), Cedrus deodara, Toona ciliata, Alnus nepalensis, Rhododendron arboretum, Bahunia veriagata, Kilmora (Barbers aristata), Common nettle (Urticaria dioica), White wild rose (Rosa multiflora). Rare species like Taxus baccata (thuner) which has anti-cancerous property is also found in the area. The animals commonly found in this area are barking deer (Muntjacus muntjack), Himalayan ghoral (Naemorhedus goral), leopard (Panthera pardus), Himalayan black bear (Ursus thibetanus laniger), Yellow throated marten (Mattes flavigula), and Indian porcupine (Hysterics indica) .etc.
Farm tourism has become an integral part of eco-tourism in the recent years as it keeps the agricultural interests of the farmers intact while simultaneously providing them an extra source of revenue from the tourists who visit their farms. Tourists get a chance to visit farms and learn farming methodologies. The amalgamation of agriculture with tourism activities helps the participating farmers in marketing their produce to this new set of customers – the tourists, who actively participate in all the farming activities, along with the farmers, and thus the produce becomes their pride, like when one catches a fish. Such farms are usually located in remote countryside and in the lap of natural beauty. These farms may provide accommodation facilities as well for a full-fledged farm life experience. If farms are located near forests, trekking and mountain climbing become available to the tourists.
Liti and Gogina, both are blessed with abundant natural beauty, as well as have forests in close proximity. The households’ main work is agriculture only, so these villages can serve as ideal sites for farm tourism. This eco-tourism activity encompasses all three aspects of sustainability. The environmental aspect is taken care of as organic farming practice does not harm the environment, economic aspect is checked by the revenue earned from selling the produce and this leads to social upliftment of the farming community.
The people in Liti lead a self sustaining life wherein they consume the food they grow, and hardly ever do they need to buy vegetables from the market. They grow a variety of edible crops
ranging from vegetables like brinjal, capsicum, onion, potato, garlic, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber.etc.to green leaves like that of mustard, spinach, coriander, bhaang.etc. to staple food crops like wheat, maize, ragi, pulses. etc. So they are a very independent community. With these resources, they have developed a number of lip-smacking food items and the regular ones that we have in the plains, taste so much better here solely because of the 100% organic ingredients so a perfect destination for farm tourism.
The place has a rich culture, tourist can engage themselves in the various religious rituals that take place in these places which are usually followed by the cultural dances of Chholiya and Chanchri. Several small-scale productions of woolen garments from rabbit and sheep’s wool and wooden articles from the canes of Ringal (a bamboo species) plant take place here. Several adventure sports activities like mountain biking, paragliding and rafting can also be started in these areas. All of these are certain to attract myriad varieties of tourists, from all walks of life. If you want to get away from the monotonous humdrums of the city life, make sure you visit this place to be a part of an unforgettable experience. Whatever may your interest be, Liti and Gogina will surely have something to suffice it.
Let’s make tourism more sustainable and more responsible by promoting nature and culture-based tourism.
Photo credit: Pradeep Mehta, CHINAR and Amit Sah