A workshop on `Rising stakes of local community in conservation of forests and wildlife: Institutionalisation of eco-tourism involving local communities' was organised by the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and sponsored
by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests at the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Thekkady.
Senior IFS officers noted that though a few States had come out with their own policies on eco-tourism, a national level policy was necessary to address the ecological needs of the forest and environment, create people's involvement giving due regard to
their ethnicity and culture so that they feel involved, promoted and empowered. Such a policy would ensure that eco tourism programmes were not hijacked by vested interests.
The forests of the country were burdened with biotic pressure coming from the traditional dependency of the local communities. The traditional type of forest management deprived the local people of any significant stake and role in the protection of the
forests. Eco tourism, being a non-consumptive use of the forests, was emerging as an important alternative to strengthen the stakes of local communities for the protection of forests and wildlife.
The officers wanted eco tourism programmes to find a place in forest management and working plan provisions. The thumb rules for an eco tourism programme should be minimum investment on infrastructure, maximum benefit to the local communities, a link between
the programme and the local communities and respect to local culture and traditions.
It was recommended that in ecologically sensitive areas, the principle of high value, high adventure and low volume tourism should be followed.Local communities should have a major role in the implementation of any eco-tourism project. Draft recommendations
for a national policy for the implementation of eco-tourism programmes in forest, wildlife and other natural eco-system areas in the country were adopted