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Tourism and Environment Nepal

Tourism and Environment Nepal

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Published by Prakash Karn
Describes toursims and its impact on environmental pollution in nepal
Describes toursims and its impact on environmental pollution in nepal

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Published by: Prakash Karn on Aug 26, 2011
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11/07/2012

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Tourism Industry and Environment in Nepal
Prakash K. Karn
1. Introduction
Tourism is one of the world's largest and fastest growing industries with the global annualturnover of $3.6 trillion and employing about 200 million people (UNESCO 2004). The WorldTourism Organization (WTO) estimates an average annual growth rate of tourism at seven per cent, with the recent number of international tourist arrivals as 700 millions. The annual receiptfrom tourism is about 500 billion dollars (UNEP 2003a). The total earnings from tourism aregreater in the developed nations however, it accounts for a greater proportion of the economy inmany developing countries where tourism has been a major source of foreign exchange earnings.While development of tourism contributes to the national economy it has costs associated withenvironmental damages.In as in Nepal as in many other developing countries, very little is known about environmentalimpacts of tourism industry though this sector has been very important for the Nepal's nationaleconomy. By virtue of its cultural and natural heritage, Nepal draws a large number of touristsevery year, and benefits in terms of large amount of foreign currency earnings and employmentopportunities generation. It has the potential to contribute positively to socio-economicachievements but, at the same time, its fast and uncontrolled growth can be a major cause of environmental degradation and loss of cultural heritage. In this paper, an effort is made to providea general assessment of existing environmental problems related to tourism in Nepal. The focushere is primarily on trash dumping in to the Everest region and deforestation. This study willcontribute towards the body of knowledge in this area.Following the introduction, the second section presents briefly the theoretical framework for thisstudy. The third section describes the importance of Nepal as a tourism destination and theimportance of tourism for Nepalese economy. It also covers the social and environmental problems associated with tourism in the context of Nepal. The fourth section discusses thesituation in terms of related theories and draws conclusions.
2. Theoretical framework 
Tourism can be viewed as a peculiar type of export industry in which goods and services do notcross borders in a physical sense but are bought and consumed within the exporting country.Thus, individuals must visit the place of supply to consume. The tourism related environmental problems in an economy are thus associated both with production of tourism good and services aswell as their consumption. The environmental effects of the tourism industry in Nepal can beviewed from the angle of trade liberalization, the process which Nepal begun about more thantwo decades ago. The situation is discussed from the viewpoint of Anderson (1992) who suggeststhat a country can gain in environment and welfare through trade only if optimal environmental policy is in place; and also from the angle of North-South trade put forward by Chichilnisky(1994) which advocates that trading between two countries occurs even only due to differences inthe property rights, and also discusses the environmental problems associated with such trades.
3. Overview of Nepal and the Nepalese tourism industry
3.1 Nepal as a tourism destination
 Nepal is a small mountainous country with an area of 147,181 sq. km situated in the CentralHimalaya, between China and India. This is a unique tourism destination with a distinctive and
 Published in “Geen Field”, Journal of Himalayan College of Agricultural Sciences & Technology, Kathmandu, Nepal, Jan-June 2007,Vol.5, Issue 1.
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varied culture and immense natural beauty. Within the short distance from south to north thereexist diverse physiographic zones, climatic contrasts, and altitudinal variations from about 75 mto 8848 m (Peak of the world the Mount Everest). Eight of the world's ten highest mountain peaksare in Nepal making it a popular destination for adventurous tourists. The country is among thetop 25 nations in the biodiversity list at present. Nepal holds two of UNESCO's World CulturalHeritage sites in Lumbini and the Kathmandu valley, two Natural Heritage sites in RoyalChitwan National Park and Sagarmatha National Park. Nepal's natural scenic beauty, snow-cladmountains, rivers and lakes, different religious and historic monuments, rich wealth of  biodiversity coupled with liberal culture and hospitable people have been the main attractions for the foreign visitors, and thus the country has a comparative advantage in the tourism sector.The tourism industry of Nepal is not very old. The Nepalese portion of the Himalayas wasexplored for tourism only after 1950. But this sector got momentum in the beginning of seventieswhen about a thousand tourists visited the country. And thereafter number of tourists increasedgeometrically and marked about 300,000 visitors in 1993 (Walder 2000). More than 90% of thesetourists are trekkers, coming mostly from the United States and Western Europe, but also fromAustralia, New Zealand, and Japan.
3.2 Economic significance of Tourism in Nepal 
Despite its unintended effects on environment and society, tourism certainly constitutes anopportunity for economic development especially for developing countries where it contributessignificantly to their national income and creates large number of jobs. Though experiences in Nepal have shown that tourism does damage the environment, it can also be an invaluable meansof development and environmental conservation. Economically Nepal is among the poorest andleast developed countries in the world, with per capita income of $230 (World Bank 2003).Tourism has been an important source of income and foreign exchanges. It contributes about four  per cent to GDP and 20 per cent of total foreign exchange earnings of the country (CBS 1997;Economic Survey 1997; Raj 2004). Besides, this sector stands second only to agriculture in termsof generating employment opportunities. In 1998, this sector provided direct or indirectemployment to about 257,000 people.Given the increasing importance of the tourism sector in Nepal, one Nepalese ecologist quotes"there are now three religions in Nepal -- Hinduism, Buddhism, and tourism". The revenues fromthis sector can be utilized for maintaining the natural areas and environment as well as towardsimproving the economic situation. However, it requires proper policy and planning thatdeveloping countries usually lack due to shortage of expertise in the field and their decisions being motivated by revenue maximization.
3.3 Impacts of tourism
The possibility of any negative effects on environment from tourism had grossly been ignored for long, considering this sector as a ‘clean industry’, however, the concern about it is now growingamong stakeholders (UNEP 1992 and 2000). Tourism industry mainly includes transportation,accommodation, food services, and retail activities (Peter 1990), the processes related to whichhave adverse effects on the environment (Healy 1994; Inskeep 1987). Though small effects ondifferent aspects of environment do not appear serious in itself, substantial ecological damage canresult from their cumulative effect (Pigram 1992).The rapid growth of tourism sector has placed a heavy burden on local economies, cultures, andenvironments (UNEP 2003b). The environmental damages can ultimately threaten the health of industry as the tourists start avoiding polluted destinations. Many studies also show the adverseeffects of tourism industry in local cultural heritage and local income distributions.
 Published in “Geen Field”, Journal of Himalayan College of Agricultural Sciences & Technology, Kathmandu, Nepal, Jan-June 2007,Vol.5, Issue 1.
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3.3.1 Environmental impacts
There are many examples of negative environmental impacts of tourism on the environment. Oneimportant example is the tourism-related wastewater pollution of coastal Adriatic Sea in Italy inthe late 80s. It caused substantial reduction in the number of tourists visiting the country whichaffected the whole industry seriously. At present, tourism generates up to 180 liters of wastewater  per tourist/day and contributes about seven per centof wastewater pollution in the Mediterranean(UNEP 2003a). On an average, an international tourist in Europe generates about one kg of solidwaste per day (IFEN 2000). Usually tourists from developed countries produce more waste (up to2 kg/person/day). Based on these rates, tourism related total global waste in 2001 was estimatedto be no less than 4.8 million tons (UNEP 2003a). The European Environment Agency estimatesthat tourism is responsible for five to seven per cent of the total emissions in Europe.In the case of Nepal, the environmental and natural resources situations may be broadlycategorized in two major geographic zones, viz., a) mountain and b) the middle hills and terai plain. Usually the tourist influxes are towards the mountain region and thus the government’semphasis is on environmentally sound tourism development in this region. Some of the major tourism related impacts are degradation of mountain environment by human waste and trashes, burning of wood for fuel, abandoned climbing gear and cultural transformations. Many studiesare available on tourism impacts in Nepal, especially with respect to the environmental problemsin the Everest and Annapurna regions. However these studies, being either donor driven or conducted by independent researchers in their own interests, have no coherence in the subjectmatter and integration in the overall framework (Nepal 2000).The most evident impacts in those areas are garbage dumping and deforestation, which areattributed largely to growing tourism, lack of proper policy, monitoring and managementstrategies. Nepal has earned infamous qualifications often in the world’s tourism andenvironmental literature. Himalaya is quoted as “the world’s highest junkyard” by Sir EdmundHillary, the first successful Himalaya climber, while the trail to the Everest base camp has beenquotes as “the garbage trail” (Shrestha 1989; World Conservation Union 1992). The region of Mount Everest in general and the Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park in particular, a WorldHeritage site, has been often reported as a vivid portrait of ecological, environmental and culturaldisruptions (Hillary 1982; Byers 1987; Fisher 1990; McConnell 1991; Byers and Banskota 1992;Stevens 1993; Robinson and Twyman 1996).In the Annapurna Conservation Area (7,629 km
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) – the most popular trekking destinations in Nepal, many tourism-related environmental and economic problems have been observed in the past two decades (Gurung and de Coursey 1994). Heavy demand for firewood and for timber for the construction of more than 700 lodges and teashops have caused localized deforestationaltering wildlife habitats, loss of the famous rhododendron forests and sizeable soil erosion in thesurrounding hills.Despite fragile and weak ecosystems of mountains and hilly areas with a limited tolerance for human activity (UNEP 2003a), the mountains of Nepal have been under severe tourism pressure.Tourism in Nepal has proceeded in a largely ad-hoc, demand-driven and unplanned manner damaging the mountain environment in some parts of the country. The most visible impact of trekkers in the Himalaya region is the growing amount of trash left behind (Rowell, 1989).Though some climbing gear is being recycled by local residents either for their own use or for resale, more than 50 tons of plastic, glass, and metal were dumped in the Himalaya region in pastfour decades between mid-1950s and the mid-1990s (Shroder 2004). An estimate indicates that itwould cost approximately $500,000 to clean up that trash.
 Published in “Geen Field”, Journal of Himalayan College of Agricultural Sciences & Technology, Kathmandu, Nepal, Jan-June 2007,Vol.5, Issue 1.
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