Top Goan environmentalists insist that time is of the essence to revive a popular reconnect with Goa’s biodiversity to aid overall conservation efforts.
They also maintain that local eco-entrepreneurs can stand to benefit economically by implementing sustainable eco-tourism modules.
The experts also mulled the definition of an ideal eco-tourist at the recent ‘Ensemble of the Wild: An Evening of Art, Culture, Music and Meaningful Conversations Around Conservation’, a curtain-raiser event of Echoes of Earth.
Echoes of Earth is a green festival, that provided a platform to raise awareness about eco-sensitivity vis-à-vis discursive panel discussions, art and music on the ecological significance of the state’s rich biodiversity, especially in the Western Ghats region.
Titled ‘Ecotourism: A Guardrail towards Protecting Goa’s Biodiversity -- in association with the Goa State Biodiversity Board’ -- the event’s first panel discussion was moderated by Pradip V Samorkadam, Member Secretary of the Goa State Biodiversity Board.
The session featured Nirmal Kulkarni (herpetologist and wildlife photographer), Rajendra Kerkar (General Secretary, Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan Goa and member of the Goa State Wildlife Advisory Board) and Professor MK Janarthanam (chairperson of the Goa State Research Foundation).
“Goa’s venture into ecotourism has an amazing future and we have the potential to become a model state for responsible ecotourism in India, only if it is carried out with small groups of people with appropriate guidelines in place that should be formulated in tandem with the local communities," stated Kulkarni.
"There are also platforms where people are being trained to respectfully showcase Goa’s magical biodiversity,” he added.
The definition of an ideal ecotourist was also discussed by the panelists, with Janarthanam stating that education is a must for ecotourists.“
"Since ecotourism entails conservation, people who visit these ecologically sensitive sites should make an effort to learn about the local flora, fauna and cultural values of the local people attached to the environment. Only these tourists are fit to be called ecotourism stakeholders,” Janarthanam commented.
“A majority of forest systems have been protected by the indigenous tribal people since time immemorial. Ecotourists need to be respectful of the spaces in which they are entering, avoid littering and adhere to the local customs,” added Kerkar.
Kerkar also highlighted the importance of respecting sacred groves and medicinal water bodies, and stated that “the need of the hour is to create awareness surrounding the ecological importance of Goa’s ecology as a whole, and increase the overall environment literacy.”
The second panel discussion, moderated by Aditya Kakodkar (Senior Coordinator, Marine Conservation) was titled ‘Tales from the Wild: Exploring Goa – A Western Ghats Wonderland – in association with the World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India)’
This session further detailed the ecological diversity of the endangered Western Ghats region.
The panelists of the session were Paresh C Porob (Range Forest Officer, Goa Forest Department), Dr Nandini Velho (Project Lead, Canopy Collective and ORA India Fellow) and Benhail Antao (wildlife rescuer and National Geographic show presenter at Snakes SOS: Goa’s Wildest).
They shared personal experiences and encounters with the Western Ghats’ flora and fauna.
The key theme that the panelists discussed was the need to reconnect with nature as a means of inculcating the spirit of conservation in both the old and new generations.
Velho recounted instances from her childhood in which her father was instrumental in educating her about the importance of the natural world, leading to her becoming one of India’s leading conservation experts.
“Today, we need to expose our children to the majesty of the natural world and tell them about elephants, leopards, tigers, sloth bears and even fungi. This is the only way to make them value and want to protect Goa’s ecology,” stated Porob.
“Respect for ecological diversity will subsequently translate to responsibility towards the environment and reduce the negative outcomes of human-animal interactions and resultant imbalances in the ecosystem,” said Antao, who recounted his experience of rescuing a king cobra which was stuck in tar at the side of the road.
Paresh C Porob, Range Forest Officer
The keynote speaker for the event, Suneel Anchipaka (IAS) Director of Tourism, also highlighted ways in which ecotourism could be sustainably
carried out by presenting the Goa Tourism Development Corporation’s
“The focus is on sustainable and responsible quality tourism to empower local communities by creating employment opportunities as per Goa’s G20 declaration," said Anchipaka.
"The key theme is ‘Goa Beyond Beaches’ under which we have launched the Homestay Policy and also introduced a Caravan Policy to promote experiential tourism,” Anchipaka added.
Aligning with Goa’s environmentally conscious ethos, and backed by the Goa Tourism Board, this one-of-a-kind event was held at the Panjim Gymkhana.
It highlighted the ecological importance of the Western Ghats and the state of Goa and delivered an amalgam of art, culture, music and conservation with sustainability and conservation at its core.
As part of Echoes of Earth’s awareness initiative, a host of events in the field of conservation have been planned over the next few weeks which include a ‘Seaweed Walk’, ‘Mangrove Walk & Nature Journaling’ and ‘Beekeeping Educational Workshop’, among others.