Eco-tourism four - Environment
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Date: 12 October, 2002


Algerian Dunes.
Photo: Andre Shine
'Some destinations, such as the Himalayas, are degrading from the impact of visitor waste and numbers.'

In number four of her six-part series on eco-tourism, Andre Shine urges responsible travellers to take care what they use and what they leave behind.

Most of us travel as uninvited guests into host communities. Granted we pay for the goods and services we consume, but what footprints do we leave behind in our wake? And how have we affected the experience of the next traveller who follows in our footsteps?

Invisible predecessors
Back in the early 1990s I descended into the fish River Canyon, Namibia, with a small hiking party. The scene at the foot of the canyon was one of a pristine wilderness. I felt like a true pioneer, not a sign or any scent of the hikers that had trodden, perhaps just hours, ahead of me.

Unfortunately this experience is now all too uncommon. Some destinations, such as the Himalayas, are degrading from the impact of visitor waste and numbers. So what can other destinations learn from the codes set up by operators who regulate access to the fish River Canyon?

Some simple steps:
• Anything you carry, including toiletries and foodstuffs, should not be deposited until you reach a location where waste is properly managed - irrespective of whether the contents have been consumed.

• Use biodegradable substances only in water sources such as rivers.

• Don't take a loo stop near water sources. And if you need to use toilet-roll burn it - cautiously. It will not decompose in cold temperatures.

• Stick to recognised paths. Even though they may look challenging and appear harmless, alternative routes may cause irreversible soil erosion and damage to the environment -

• Avoid buying bottled water. Depositing plastic empties just adds to the non-biodegradable waste problem. Use a water bottle - either filtered or with purifying tablets.

We take our water for granted. But for many people of the developing world water conservation is part of every day life. And seasonal rainfall is celebrated.

Here are a few ideas of how we can reduce the amount of water we use when travelling.

Portable plug: There are many travel gadget high street and mail order suppliers that sell one-size fits all plugs.

Hotel laundry: Request a weekly cleaning service instead of a daily one. Also limit your own personal laundry - if possible wait until you get home.

Seek the shade: Seek respite from heat beneath a tree or parasol, rather than relying on iced cold drinks to keep your temperature down,

Taps: Don't leave taps running unnecessarily.

Sports: Avoid playing golf in areas where course irrigation of the course means depleting local water supplies, and causes local community shortages.

This article is part of a series - use these links to view the other eco-tourism articles
Eco Tourism 1
Eco Tourism 2

Eco Tourism 3
Eco Tourism 5
Eco Tourism 6


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