When done well, ecotourism can be a form of sustainable enjoyment of natural areas, providing tourists a unique opportunity to experience the wilderness, while helping local communities in these areas revitalize their economic status. WCS-India’s long-term goal is to ensure that the full power of ecotourism is realized to support both wildlife and local communities.
Ecotourism is an expanding industry in India, but unfortunately the sector is poorly regulated, especially in natural habitats outside protected areas. An ever-increasing tourist footfall poses an increasing threat to wildlife and ecologically sensitive habitats. Considering the limited physical and ecological capacity of these regions, ecotourism carrying capacity estimation has emerged as an important tool in enabling managers, policy makers and local communities recognize the ecological limits of ecotourism activities, and sustainably manage these.
Recognizing the potential and importance of effective regulation of ecotourism, WCS-India has initiated studies to assess carrying capacity and design effective ecotourism management plans across protected areas and natural habitats in the country.
Our current work involves the estimation of carrying capacity of Mangalajodi wetland on the northern fringes of Chilika Lake in Odisha, for the ecotourism programme involving the local communities. This unique wetland site is an important wintering site in the Central Asian Flyway, receiving thousands of migratory birds every winter season.