How Birdwatching guide training under Ecological sensitive tourism can help as Green Recovery measures post pandemic

16 June 2020
Eurasian Jay, Bird responsible for high success rate of natural regeneration of oak species. Pic credit: Ritesh Sharma

Eurasian Jay, Bird responsible for high success rate of natural regeneration of oak species.
Pic credit: Ritesh Sharma

How Birdwatching guide training under Ecological sensitive tourism can help as Green Recovery measures post pandemic: case study from HP-FES project, Himachal Pradesh, India

GIZ India is partnering with Government of Himachal Pradesh, India through Himachal Pradesh Forest Ecosystem Services Project (HP-FES) project to create green jobs based on recreational/ecotourism models. Bird conservation and birdwatching not only help saving forest ecosystem but also create jobs as green recovery measures. Investment in training birdwatching guide entrepreneurs could help the state in creating additional jobs for Himalayan rural landscapes, especially considering COVID 19 post pandemic.

Nature solutions has always come to rescue human civilisation and this fact applies even in Covid 19 crisis. While the present crisis has strong linkages to deforestation, poaching; investment in ecological restorations will save us not only from any future crisis but also provide us solution to job loss crisis happened due to Covid 19. Investment in birdwatching guide trainings could be one of the such nature-based solutions to help nature restore and create job security in such states.

It is a paradox that Himalayan states of India despite of their rich natural capital faces lack of employment opportunities. The Himalayan states Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand often see forced migration to urban plains for employment. In Himachal Pradesh alone, out-migration of rural population counts for around 50,000 as per Census of India (2011)1.

In India, due to the collapse of urban industrial production systems in the Covid 19 pandemic lockdown, a new phenomenon is underway which could be termed as Forced Reverse Migration. Rural migrant labours have been forced to return to their native villages: a 180-degree turn to what we knew as forced migration resulted from lack of employment opportunities in rural areas. According to government records and officials, a total of 59,360 people returned to 10 hill districts of Uttarakhand from metro cities in plains as well as from abroad. This number is expected to reach around 1,00,0002. While permanent contract labours are likely to return as soon the industrial productions resumes, many of the temporary sourced labour might not get their jobs. An estimate suggests that 30% of such labour will be forced to stay in their native villages3. The Himalayan states might face challenges to generate employment opportunities for these additional rural inhabitants who lost their jobs.

Under such conditions, while various economic agencies are promoting the concepts of Green Recovery measures in adopting climate friendly, sustainable industrial production; adopting ecologically sensitive tourism model or ecotourism in common terms, could serve as Green recovery measures and help the state in absorbing economic shock. Such model will also help the state in regulating the boom in tourism industry4.

According to World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)5, ecotourism can be defined as all nature-based forms of tourism in which the main motivation of the tourists is the observation and appreciation of nature as well as the traditional cultures prevailing in the natural areas, having minimized negative impacts. This model drives its sustainability from ethical trading of recreational services of forest ecosystems and rural cultural exposures. Both Western Himalayan states (Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand) are blessed with varied natural landscape, rolling high altitude meadows, pastures, snow cladded peaks, rivers, lakes, dense coniferous and mixed temperate forests and a vivid variety of flora and fauna. Guided programmes on birdwatching, trekking, eco-trails, nature parks and camping could be some well tested eco-tourism products.

Among various ecotourism activities, investment in birdwatching training can help in bird habitats conservation as well ensure sustainable green livelihood. One may argue, how birds, birdwatching and guided programme on birdwatching are so relevant in green recovery measures.

Birds come in varieties of shapes, size and their range of beautiful songs have always captivated the humans. But little do humans realize that birds play an important role in providing a wide range of ecosystem services. Their role as pollinators (e.g. white-eye, sunbirds, drongos, flowerpeckers) and seed dispersals (e.g. barbets and parakeets) are well known. They are also one of the most important agents of biological control. Insects which are major pests for plants, are controlled by high number of insectivorous birds (e.g. flycatchers and warblers). A single bird feeds on hundreds of insects each day which helps in controlling and maintaining sustainable population level of insects. Rodents are one of major agri-pest on agricultural landscapes, and their population is regulated by predatory carnivorous birds. For instance, Barn Owl during the nesting time, kills 6 rats per night to feed their chicks and for 40-60 days, it consumes around 360 rats making it as an effective biological controller of rodents.

Birds are also indicator of status of habitats and ecosystems. Each bird species prefers specific habitats. They have a very rapid metabolism and occupy a high position in the food chain which makes them very sensitive to the smallest environment changes in a predictable manner in their habitat.

Himachal Pradesh Forest Ecosystem Services Project (HP-FES) together with Himachal Pradesh Forest department (HPFD) had already identified birdwatching as one of the tourism products in, Shangarh a village close to the Greater Himalayan National Park under ecologically sensitive tourism model. The project is organising three stage birdwatching guide trainings for selected 20-30 rural youths. The training will be institutionalised with existing capacity of the forest department for continuum effect. The participants will be trained on bird ecology, their identification, threats well as recording and monitoring them. The second component of the training is to develop their marketing skills in creating service packages in ecologically sensitive manner.

An industry’s factor of production includes land, labour, entrepreneurship, and capital. The Covid 19 pandemic and resultant forced reverse migration has solved the issue of supply of labour in socio-eco-landscapes of rural Himalayas. The Himalayan states are blessed with ample supply of natural capital, especially the have high bird diversity supply. Now the state only needs to provide policy support in developing missing gap on entrepreneurship through training programmes on ecotourism products like birdwatching.

While Green recovery measures are still focussing on climate friendly correction in industrial production post Covid 19 crisis, Himalayan states can showcase Birdwatching guide and related ecotourism products measures as best practices of Green recovery measures. Timely input on developing such entrepreneurship will not only solve job issues to these returned youth but will also ensure conservation of the Himalayan forest ecosystems.

Name of Author
Ritesh Sharma – Advisor
Jyoti Kashyap – Advisor
Dr Justus Joshua – Consultant
Dr Joachim Schmerbeck – Team leader HP-FES

Contact person
Dr Joachim Schmerbeck – Team leader HP-FES, GIZ

Ravindra Singh – Director
Biodiversity Programme, GIZ

Key buzzwords / “tags”
#ecotourism, #COVID19, #Lockdown, #training, #Greenrecoverymeasures, #birdwatching, #birddiversity

1 > Migration Tables, Series-D7, Uttarakhand, a neighbouring Himalayan states counts for half of the population (Source: Rural Development and Migration Commission Report, September 2019).

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4 > THE HIMACHAL PRADESH TOURISM POLICY, 2019, The number of tourists visiting the Himachal Pradesh has gone up to 196.02 lakhs in 2017-2018 which 21% higher than five years ago.

5 > The British Ecotourism Market, UNWTO 2002