Impact of climate Change on Tourism

The tourism sector is highly vulnerable to climate change and at the same time contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases
Impact of climate Change on Tourism
Representational Picture

Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most sought after tourist destinations nationally as well as internationally. The J&K is endowed with beautiful tourist destinations for leisure, recreation, and also for religious tourism. There are beautiful peaks to the adventure lovers and this all is the mainstay of the economy.

Tourism sector contributes substantially to J&K’s economy and also provides livelihood opportunity to around 20% of the population. This sector has created jobs also offering people financial freedom and is proving a global economic powerhouse. In 2018, the industry generated 10.4 per cent of the global Gross Domestic Product but climate change puts those numbers at risk as it also accounts for around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change emanating from transatlantic flights to souvenirs

At the core of it, climate is the basic and principal attraction for tourists from all over the world. Preference of locations during a particular period of time and the profitability of enterprise is largely determined by the climatic conditions and any regional manifestation of climate variability and extremes are likely to influence the popularity of any tourist destination.

So the projected climate variability and change can severely affect the tourism industry through increased infrastructure damage, additional emergency preparedness requirements, higher operational expenses and business interruptions.

Barring the vulnerability of the sector the tourism sector also contributes to climate change through GHG emissions from transportation and accommodation facilities for tourists. The critical challenge is therefore to develop a coherent policy strategy that separates the growth of tourism industry from enhanced GHG accumulation and contribute substantially towards poverty alleviation and livelihood improvement in view of mandatory requirement of the Paris agreement on climate change.

The tourism sector is highly vulnerable to climate change and at the same time contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), one of the causes of global warming. Accelerating climate action in tourism is therefore of utmost importance for the resilience of the sector. Climate action is understood as the efforts to measure and reduce GHG emissions and strengthen adaptive capacity to climate induced impacts.

In fact Tourism and Travel sector, has no choice but to transform to survive and thrive in the face of climate change. Under the Paris Agreement, we are supposed to be working towards stabilizing global temperature rise to 1.5C by the end of the century. Every piece of scientific evidence at our disposal tells us this is the minimum to avoid potential disaster.

My casual trip to Taj Vivanta and Lalit Grand Palace recently strengthened my resolve that our tourism sector needs to stand to the challenges of climate change and if this industry failS to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist until and unless climate and environment is kept under the “top priority” action. The novel initiative of a Tourism Sustainability Action Plan which is meant to help the industry deliver on its climate ambition is a bold new initiative by the travel and tourism sector, supported by UN Climate Change. Change is the essence of success and you have to change with time and the tourism industry has to accept the challenge and go with the sustainability formula. If you don’t change your business, climate change will change it for you.

The disturbances due to climate-related and geophysical disasters claimed an estimated 1.3 million lives and more than 90 per cent of all disasters are caused by floods, storms, droughts, heatwaves or other extreme weather events.

We need to take action now and reduce the GHG emission through a collaborative process, strategies and actions for sustainable tourism, considering both low-carbon development as well as the creation of green jobs for poor populations is required. Introduction of Bicycle can be one such step which can be started right in earnest, while creating employment opportunities in the form of bicycle rental and repair shops, bicycle sellers, street vendors, tricycle providers, and tour guides at various tourist destinations besides helping in GHG emission load.

A traditional architectural style closely connected to the natural environment and unique to Kashmir is to be encouraged thereby restricting motorized vehicles around the buildings and can be part of Green Building concept. That will lead to sustainable urban tourism development.

With much of the world soon about to start emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and the tourism is bound to increase. Therefore, it is important we try to reduce our emissions even when we travel. It is estimated that tourism is responsible for nearly 5 % of global CO2 emissions. Out of these 5%, transport is responsible for the largest part of emissions, with around three quarters of the share. Since the tourism industry is bound to take an upward trend and Sustainable Tourism is the option. Whilst sustainable tourism still only represents a small fraction of the global industry, there is enormous potential to ensure that the growing sector of TOURISM is greened.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a 7% reduction of GHG emissions globally in 2020, providing a tangible reference to the magnitude of the effort still ahead in order to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, which will require around 7% reduction of emissions on an annual basis throughout the next decade for sustained development.

The tourism infrastructure stress leading to congestion, pollution, water and sanitation issues. Providing hospitality to excess tourists during the peak time has led to unplanned infrastructural growth in the climate sensitive region thereby enhancing the chances of catastrophic destruction of life and assets.

Climate projection predicts future changes in temperature and other important features of climate which are likely to manifest themselves differently.

Climate change studies have predicted a number of climate extremes including flood from more intense precipitation, cloud burst, drought, landslide, storm intensity and avalanches. We witnessed these events at Kishtwar Amarnath near Holy Cave and at Ladakh recently. Such climate extremes are likely to affect the tourism industry through increased infrastructure damage, additional emergency preparedness requirements, higher operation costs (e.g. insurance, backup water and power systems, and evacuations) and business interruptions. This can have an indirect impact on water quality, increased solid and liquid waste load, biodiversity loss, reduced landscape aesthetic, increased natural hazards, damage to infrastructure and increasing incidence of vector-borne diseases.

In J&K there are many tourist spots like, Jammu, Patnitop, Sanasar, Bhaderwah, Kishtwar, Katra in the Jammu division and Srinagar, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Daksum, Kokernag, Yusmarg, Aharbal, Watlab, Verinag, Lolab Valley,Bangus in Kashmir Division which need immediate planning on sustainable development goals. We need to go for adaptation as well as mitigation measures in tourism sector. Since almost all spots are located on climate sensitive areas therefore permission to be granted on the basis of carrying capacity data. Some tangible actions can be :

Move ski areas to higher altitudes

Improve insurance cover in the face of extreme events

Educate and raise awareness among tourists on the impacts of global warming

Develop response plans i.e. water supply planning (in drought susceptible destinations), risk assessment and preparedness strategies, and implement early warning systems (e.g. for flooding/flash flood)

Develop new areas/circuits to decongest regularly visited areas

Improve adaptive capacity of authorities and managers of protected areas through capacity building initiatives, especially in biodiversity hotspots

Establish scientific monitoring survey programmes to assess ecosystem changes.

Development of climate resilient rehabilitation centre based on the carrying capacity.

Some of the issues faced by Tourism sector include: Pressure on drinking water resources, Siltation and pollution of water bodies, Lack of collection and disposal mechanism of solid waste, Increased urban congestion and lack of proper transportation facilities, Lack of sewage disposal facility, Deforestation and land degradation, Unplanned infrastructure in climate sensitive zones, Poor waste disposal system. This e sector has structural & institutional weaknesses despite being one of the oldest & longest operating industries.

Immediate need:

To carry out carrying-capacity-studies at each destination which will help in identification of infrastructural gap that are likely to exacerbate under projected climate change scenario.

Develop an Environmental Management Plan for each destination.

Construction of Bio-toilet Human waste disposal is a pressing problem across all tourist destinations in J&K. Open disposal of such waste leads to organic pollution & infectious diseases (dysentery, diarrhoea, amoebiasis, viral hepatiti s, cholera, typhoid) in epidemical proportions due to contamination of surface water and drinking water resources. Moreover the sub-zero temperature does not allow natural biodegradation of organic matter leading to accumulation of the human waste over the years, contaminating the ice which is the only source of drinking water. Further, melted ice loaded with human waste can contaminate the rivers and other water sources exacerbating the health risks.

Implementation of solid and liquid waste management facility takes care of collection, transport, processing, recycling or disposal of waste materials, usually produced from human activity. Management of solid and liquid waste has turned out to be a pressing problem . Generation and accumulation of waste leads to nuisance, air and water pollution, vector and water borne diseases and also contribute to greenhouse gas emission to the atmosphere.

The problem of implementation of comprehensive solid and liquid waste management facilities are: Lack of knowledge in regard to technology that can ideally be implemented to address the solid and liquid waste, Unavailability of proper dumping site.

Lack of knowledge and research regarding the complexities of tourism-climate interrelationships are common to the sector. Reduction of the impact of climate extremes requires a thorough knowledge about the early warning systems related to weather variability and climate induced disaster risk reduction techniques. Tour operators are likely to play a vital role in ensuring adaptation and mitigation initiatives through their capacity to influence the whole tourism supply chain. It is therefore imperative that the operators be made aware and trained on the climate change adaptation and mitigation issues.

The mode to be followed for imparting knowledge would be through awareness and capacity building workshops. Awareness building would be done on a mass scale in phases for the tour operators and associated public in general and communities in tourism locations/destinations. Additionally, specific customized awareness and capacity building programmes have to be undertaken for tour operator groups/associations and staff from government tourism facility to pave way for a Sustained Tourism Development.

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