Key to a successful ecotourism destination is active participation of the local host community, says Partha Pratim Das, Advisor at Tourism Department, Government of Bodoland Territorial Council, India.
Partha Pratim Das is a wildlife conservationist from Assam. He is associated with the Manas Maozigendri Ecotourism Society as one of the founders and Project Co-ordinator since its inception till date.
The Organization under his leadership, has been initiating and working on a number of community driven projects, relating to wildlife protection, conservation and tourism driven, community livelihood issues.
His relentless work to stop the menace of poaching has lead to the implementation of some ingenious social and livelihood practices in the Manas National Park area.
Here, in an Interview with EcoTourism Expert, Partha Pratim Das tells his story of being raised in the forest and also taught the importance of protecting the wildlife in Assam.
- Can you tell us about your interest in the subject of wildlife conservation, ecotourism etc and the projects you initiated during the earlier days in this field? What was the driving force behind your passion?
- My interest in Wildlife was initiated by being with my maternal grandfather, who happened to be a forest Ranger from the Raj Era. He introduced me to the wildlife and the great authors who wrote on Wildlife in Assam. He is the one who taught me the need to live with the Nature in Harmony. I was brought up with the elephants of forest department. We literally grew up together. So the passion for them is imbibed from my childhood days of growing up in that environment.
- Currently, as Advisor to the Tourism Department Govt. of Bodoland Territorial Council, can you tell us about the projects that you have undertaken relating to wildlife protection, conservation and tourism driven issue?
- Bodoland tourism has been able to facilitate the biggest community conservation and ecotourism initiative in India with the active participation of the villagers living in the fringe areas of Manas National Park and elsewhere.
- What was your experience handling the ‘Manas Maozigendri Eco-tourism Society’ as the founder member and Project Manager of the NGO? Are you still associated with the other projects initiated by this organisation? How successful were your initiatives to empower local communities?
- Maozigendri is one of the most appreciated community conservation initiative in the world today. UNESCO world heritage site committee had mentioned about this community led initiative in its reports.
I am still a part of the Maozigendri family as a mentor to the younger guys in the group who are currently leading it from the front.
The initiative was able to bring the sense of belongingness to the local community and they took the responsibility to bring back the glory of Manas as a world heritage site. Today this model is replicated across the country and abroad.
Manas Maozigendri Eco-tourism Society is the most successful community conservation initiative in India. It has already won a few national Awards from Ministry of Environment & Forest and INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art culture & Heritage). As a founder member and Project Manager of the NGO I was involved in planning and execution of all the programs.
- What strategies can you suggest for developing a good eco-tourism destination; and also promote investment including microcredit initiatives for local and indigenous communities? Any thoughts?
Key to a successful ecotourism destination is active participation of the local host community. We have to be able to built a consensus with the community and let them drive the initiative. Financial inclusiveness of the community is critical for long term sustainability of the project. So, linking up such initiatives with the institutions and markets will ensure their long term success.
- What’s the position of Tourism in general in Assam as of today? Post COVID-19, what steps should be taken to improve the tourism sector in the State, which has been severely hit these past few months?
- COVID-19 has hit the tourism Industry in Assam as badly as anywhere else. But we are positive that it will bounce back. Most of our tourism assets are nature based and are generally hygienic. We do not have mass tourism destinations. We have to focus on our basics to tide over this period and better prepare for the needs of the tourists post COVID-19.