Following a successful attempt at involving the community to promote ecotourism in the Kas plateau in western Maharashtra, the state forest department has now extended the plan to the hill station of Mahabaleshwar.
In this model, villages in the vicinity of the respective tourism spot are allowed to charge entry fees from tourists. This money is then used to employ a workforce to prevent tourists from polluting the environment.
“We noticed that tourist spots - especially forest lands - are out of reach of local self-governments and hence get affected owing to the damaging activities of tourists. We came up with a scheme to encourage community participation to make such forest lands eco-friendly,” said Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary (forest).
Hazardous plastic materials and free-moving vehicles have caused great damage to the environment and ecosystem. “The Kas experiment saw the two villages earn more than Rs15 lakh [by way of Rs10 for entry fee per tourist] in one month,” said Pardeshi.
Pardesi added that in both places, the villagers controlled access to view points and tourist spots. “We have got villages that are close to tourism spots or view points on forest lands. The villagers charge entry fees, regulate traffic by offering safe parking areas and prevent tourists from carrying plastics and littering the place,” said Pardeshi.