Ecotourism Takes Toll on Environment

JakartaGlobe | August 12, 2009

Solo. There’s an environmental drawback, after all, to the rising trend toward ecological tourism, where nature lovers flock to pristine natural sites.

Soehartini Sekartjakrarini, executive director of Innovative Development for Eco Awareness, said people’s interest in these types of areas were no longer a passing fancy but were now a part of a new lifestyle.

This promises much for the development of tourism, but at the same time poses a threat to the environment, largely because of careless management by tourism operators.

“Once an area develops as a tourist site, then negative side effects can also take place,” Soehartini told the Jakarta Globe.

She said forests, coastal areas, small islands, villages, customary hamlets and old cities that were developed for tourism would often be flooded by related development projects — not all of them friendly to the environment.

Soehartini called on the government to tightly monitor the development of tourism areas and to take firm action to prevent operators and developers from causing damage to the natural environment.

“The concept of ecotourism in protected areas, half-protected areas and cultural conservation areas should be well integrated,” Soehartini said.

She outlined five components of sustainable tourism development: conservation efforts to protect the environment being developed for tourism, the participation of surrounding communities, the use of the local culture for education and entertainment, a positive contribution to the local administration, and strong controls to prevent any negative impacts from the development in the area .

A precautionary approach was also the key to developing and managing a new tourist site, she said. “Hastiness and negligence in managing the environment will only lead to the death of tourism there itself.”

Ecotourism has already damaged natural resources, Thamrin B. Bachri, from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said in a national seminar on the development of environmentally oriented tourism here.

“One example is Bunaken National Marine Park, which now draws fewer tourists than before, because the reefs have suffered damage as a result of tourism,” Thamrin said.

Other tourist sites to have suffered a similar fate are the Borobudur Temple in Central Java and the Jatijajar natural cave in Central Java, he said.

“Ecotourism is promising, but at the same time worrying,” he said.

A member of the World Tourism Code of Ethics committee, I Gede Ardika, said that the development of tourist sites should avoid or reduce the use of nonrenewable natural resources such as water and energy, and avoid causing pollution through waste or garbage.

“Tourism infrastructure and activities should aim to protect the ecosystem and the natural diversity; it should assure the protection of endangered animals, rare species and their environments,” he said.

Ardika added that the “how much money did you spend” approach to tourists should no longer be the main concern.

The government should now work on encouraging the international community to help save, safeguard and protect the environment, he said.

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