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The Environment-Tourism Nexus: Reconciling Critical Issues towards Sustainable Development

Introduction :

Climate Change is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment. From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Without drastic action today, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly. The way we approach development affects everyone. The impacts of our decisions as a society have very real consequences for people's lives. Poor planning of communities, for example, reduces the quality of life for the people who live in them. It is, therefore, very likely that climate change will affect your business area sooner or later. 

Impact of Climate change :

Climate change can reduce snow cover, increase and prolong heat waves or change the patterns of annual rainfall for example. The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2014 defines climate change as “Any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity”. Due to its diverse climatic conditions, India, as a country, is highly vulnerable against climate change impacts such as increases in the severity of storms, floods and droughts,; soil erosion due to sea level rise in coastal regions,; disruptions to water supply due to low groundwater levels,; and negative human health impacts. According to 2017 German Watch report, India is ranked as the fourth most vulnerable country. The Economic Survey 2017–18 reveals that on an average annual rainfall in India has declined by about 86 mm in the last three decades.

Courts on Climate change:

The Indian Judiciary has been very aware of the need to preserve and protect the environment and has time and again taken cognizance of the hazards of illegal and indiscriminate mining, deteriorating quality of air, ecological damage caused due to industrial activity as well as discharge of toxic untreated effluents into water bodies. In the case of Bombay Dyeing and Mfg. Co. Ltd. V. Bombay Environment Action Group, the Hon’ble Apex court held that, “with major threats to the environment, such as climate change, depletion of natural resources, the eutrophication of water systems and biodiversity and global warming, the need to protect the environment has become a priority.”

Tourism Sector – A hub of carbon emissions :

The tourism sector is considered as one of the least prepared global economic sectors for climate change and the sector is expected to undergo some serious trans-formative changes in the next decade due to the changing ecological paradigm. Tourism - business and leisure continue to be a vital component of the global economy, an important contributor to the Millennium Development Goals and an integral, positive element of our global society.

The Hon’ble Bombay High Court in the case of State of Maharashtra v. Suraj Pal held that, “Carbon sequestration is extremely important from the view point of reducing carbon footprint of a nation and is considered a major contribution towards lowering down global warming brought about by green house or carbon dioxide emitting gases. It also helps in strengthening the economy of a nation, apart from increasing its world image by reducing its carbon footprint as it would show that the nation does not leave behind a big bad footprint created by burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas which emit huge amount of carbon dioxide and other toxic gases into the atmosphere. In other words, a healthy forest ecosystem determines sustainability of life on earth itself and since tigers are so important a bench mark of a healthy forest ecosystem, the habitats where wild tigers abound, are considered to be extremely high value ecosystem.” The dangers of unchecked carbon emissions, especially in the tourism sector and its impact on the same have been widely ignored. An acute need is felt in the country to put in place a legal framework for regulating and protection of the tourism sector from the harmful carbon emissions.

In other words, a healthy forest ecosystem determines sustainability of life on earth itself and since tigers are so important a bench mark of a healthy forest ecosystem, the habitats where wild tigers abound, are considered to be extremely high value ecosystem.” In Court (on its own motion) v State of Himachal Pradesh, the National Green Tribunal made a series of orders directing the State government to take action to redress the environmental degradation of the ‘Crown Jewel’ of Himachal Pradesh—the eco-sensitive Rohtang Pass—caused by inadequately regulated tourism- related development and activities, including vehicular air pollution. Of the various tourism-related impacts, the Tribunal noted that Black Carbon (primarily un-burnt fuel, including from vehicular pollution) has been ‘the major causative factor for rapid melting of glacier[s] in the north-western Himalaya’ and a significant contributor to global warming.


Panya Mathur

About the Author:

Currently pursuing BBA LLB from School of Law, Christ University, Bengaluru. As a student of law, and a lifelong humanitarian, I intend to voice my unconventional opinions through my write-ups.

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