ISSN 1108-8931


Year 6 - Issue 71

Sponsored by: Zante Feast Discovery Holidays, Purple Valley Yoga Centre, Hana Maui Botanical Gardens, Jorth Consult Limited, Pacuare Lodge, Ecolife 2005 Fair


Ecotourism in Kerala, India: Lessons from the Eco-Development Project in Periyar Tiger Reserve

by Dr. Santosh P. Thampi
Reader, Department of Commerce & Management Studies, University of Calicut, Kerala, India

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The purpose of this article is to describe and evaluate the ecotourism project at the Periyar Tiger Reserve (Thekkady), in Kerala, India. The Ministry of Environment has undertaken to promote local community participation in forest management, through the "India - Eco - Development" programme in seven states. In Kerala, the 'Thekkady Tiger Trail' project was launched a couple of years ago in the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.

In the "Periyar Tiger Trail" project, the members involved are the former inhabitants of the forest, who use to make a living by illegal trading of forest goods. An activity, which was thus detrimental to the conservation of the forest. However, their intimate knowledge about the plants and animals, and their survival instincts are put into good use in leading participatory ecotourism activities.

Motorised tourist transport in Lake Periyar

Besides the Tiger Trail, other ecotourism products of the Periyar Tiger Reserve are: Bamboo Rafting, Day Trekking Programme, Tribal Heritage, Bamboo Grove, Jungle Inn and Wild Adventures. The prime attraction for tourists visiting Thekkady is a boat cruise in the Periyar Lake. This lake is artificially formed, due to the submergence of low-lying forest areas, following the construction of the Mullapperiyar Dam in 1895. 70% of the 777sq km large Sanctuary, includes tropical evergreen and semi-evergreen forests. Animals found here include elephant, sambar, gaur, wild boars, leopard, wild dog, barking deer, mouse deer, monitor lizards and a variety of snakes and birds (e.g. hornbill, blue winged parakeet, whistling thrush, flycatcher)

To implement the project initially, local communities living off the forest were organized into eco-development committees (EDCs). Two basic objectives for the EDCs are to reduce the negative impact of local people on the Sanctuary and to involve encroachers in conservation, instead of exploitation. The project has so far benefited about 40,000 people of 5,540 families. 23 sandalwood smugglers came forward to begin life anew. They pledged to protect the very forests that they had plundered in the past and in return, the Forest Department withdrew all the cases against them. They initiated a Bamboo Rafting programme for tourists in November 2002 and major part of the earnings from this goes to a community development fund. Members of the Tribal Trekkers group (consisting of tribal youths) have added four species of birds to the checklist of the reserve.

When briefly reviewing the initiatives in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, based on the principles of ecotourism (i.e. educational elements, community development and nature protection), in is evident that for the vast protected area network in India, the lessons from the Periyar experience are important, as it legitimately shows the need for communities and conservation to go hand in hand.

Full article appears at the open access Ecotourism Library



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