Q: The states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are reaching the limits of their ecological carrying capacity due to tourism. Critically evaluate.
The hilly states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are endowed with beautiful natural landscape. Thus, they have the potential to attract tourists from all over the world. Mountains have become a magnet for tourism, which is the most rapidly growing industry in the world.
- The impacts of tourism on mountain ecosystems and biological resources are of great concern, both at the local and global scales, because of the high degree of biodiversity and environmental sensitivity of mountain areas. Tourism create pressure on the local resources.
- Due to this, there are apprehensions that they might be reaching the limits of their ecological carrying capacity. The carrying capacity implies the maximum population size that the ecosystem could sustain indefinitely.
- For instance, to handle the growing tourist industry, the Dal Lake in Srinagar has been encroached, through haphazard urbanisation. Similarly is the case of Uttarakhand, which has places of religious significance and attracts lots of followers annually led to development of roads and bridges which has disturbed the ecological balance.
- But we may not say that these regions as a whole are reaching their ecological carrying capacity as the tourist activities in these areas are limited to very small regions as compared to their state area.
- In Jammu and Kashmir, it is confined to Ladakh, Srinagar and Jammu district. In Uttarakhand, it is mostly confined to the Western part which is full of religious places like Badrinath, Kedarnath, Haridwar, Rishikesh, etc. In Himachal, the tourist areas are located mainly in three districts – Kullu, Dharamsala, Shimla, whereas rest of the areas gets less than 5% to total tourists arriving to the state as aggregate.
Thus, these states require destination specific checks, instead of common policy for whole state. The need of hour is to promote other areas and diversify the tourism industry across the state with principle of Eco-tourism, i.e., uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel.