Tourism activities have been constantly increasing in many parts of the world; this is not a surprise given that tourism is currently a very important economic sector for many countries in the globe. It has contributed to economic and social transformation of the societies that depend on it.
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However, there are some environmental concerns that have been raised in most of the territories that have a lot of tourism activities. This paper seeks to discuss the tourism industry and the conflicts it creates with the environment.
Candela and Figini argue that the growth in tourism in many parts of the globe has had a serious impact on environmental sustainability and conservation (123). The increase in tourists’ numbers has caused unfavourable effects to the local communities that live in those territories.
Consequently, tourism expansion needs to be controlled to ensure that the environment remains sustainable without being degraded. Wildlife and marine species that are rare can become extinct if unsustainable tourism activities are allowed to thrive. Delicate ecosystems need protection from unchecked tourism activities because they guarantee a higher degree of biodiversity for rare and vulnerable species.
Marine tourism has a serious environmental consequence on the surrounding environment. The construction of structures such as tourist resorts on beach fronts portends environmental dangers to coastal ecosystems.
The structures result in the removal of natural coastal vegetation, which leads to increased erosion of the land adjacent to the sea. They also cause an increase in the amount of sediments that get deposited on the ocean floor, which negatively affects marine ecosystems.
The increase in silt in the ocean leads to a higher sea level, which leads to the extension of the shoreline (Candela and Figini 146). It is necessary for the natural vegetation to be conserved to limit the dangers that result from the rise in sea level; tourist activities should not endanger marine ecosystems in any way.
Many communities that depend on the marine environment for their livelihoods are negatively affected by the construction of tourist resorts; for example, the communities that depend on fishing feel that tourism activities have a negative impact on their livelihoods.
Candela and Figini reveal that tourist resorts and activities in marine areas deprive fishermen of the ability to access the sea and thereby they cannot be able to work efficiently (162). Some hotels block access to public beaches, which fishermen use to go to the sea.
The sedimentation caused by clearing vegetation close to the shore causes silt to be deposited in coral reefs and continental shelves. These are breeding grounds for fish and sedimentation makes it difficult for them and other species to reproduce. Tourist activities cause distress to the communities that depend on the surrounding natural resources for their survival.
Poor planning and expansion of tourist facilities opens up possibilities of different forms of pollution. Haphazard construction of hotels and other amenities without proper assessments results in the discharge of waste into delicate ecosystems. Poor water and sewerage infrastructure is also a danger to the surrounding environment because natural water resources can get contaminated.
Some hotels are likely to discharge raw effluent into rivers and other water bodies, which is dangerous to the survival of the various species that live in that habitat (Buckley 398-400).
This also poses great danger to the health of the communities that depend on the water getting exposed to the toxic contaminants; this results in poor environmental health. Tourist facilities need to treat sewage and waste water before it is discharged into the surrounding environment.
There have been a lot of debates regarding sustainable tourism practices that are favourable to the environment. The tourism sector across the globe should be focused on conservation efforts to protect the environment from unnecessary degradation. Tourism activities have flourished all over the world at the expense of the wellbeing of the local communities.
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In Central America, some communities have been dispossessed of their land to pave way for construction of tourist facilities (Kamp 1-2). These communities have been deprived of their communal land leaving them at the mercy of big and greedy businessmen. The appropriation of land that belongs to peasants for commercial gain is one of the factors that create environmental conflicts in these regions.
Small-scale farmers who rely on agriculture to earn income become disadvantaged in their own countries after being dispossessed of their land. The large-scale expansion of tourist facilities creates water shortages in some communities. These facilities use a lot of water for swimming pools, water sports and other daily activities that deplete water resources in these regions.
This creates a conflict between tourism industries and the local communities that rely on the water sources for their domestic and commercial needs (Kamp 1-2). The social environment is greatly disadvantaged by the activities that result from unchecked tourism expansion.
These conflicts bring about a lot of social pressures because of the inability of local communities to exploit natural resources that are close to them. Large-scale tourism expansion causes intensive use of water, which competes with the needs of the local communities that live nearby.
Unchecked expansion of tourist facilities opens up possibilities of conflicts with wildlife as well. Tourist facilities constructed in game parks interfere with the natural activities of wild animals that inhabit the parks. Hotels and lodges in game parks interfere with the migratory routes of wild animals and cut short their freedom of movement (Malviya 92).
These facilities block wild animals from accessing water, food and pasture making it difficult for them to increase their populations. Unchecked expansion in the natural habitats of wild animals interferes with the natural setting that is experienced by animals that live there.
Increased movements of human beings cause the wild animals to become more aggressive or timid because they feel threatened by the unwanted intrusion into their habitats.
Unchecked expansion of human settlements can create conflicts with wild animals. This problem has been witnessed in East and Southern Africa where high population growth has seen the land that is meant for settlement become scarcer day by day. More people have invaded designated game reserves where they carry out farming, livestock keeping and other income generating activities (Neale and Burton 1-2).
This situation poses great danger to both wild animals and the people who settle near these game parks. There has been an increase in the human-wildlife conflicts in these regions. Elephants, buffaloes and monkeys destroy crops that have been planted by farmers resulting in unnecessary losses.
Lions, leopards and hyenas attack goats and cattle reared by the pastoralists in the areas. It has become difficult to sustain tourist facilities in the face of the rapid increases in population and settlements.
The rise in poaching activities also creates serious problems for the sustainability of the tourist industries. There is a thriving black market for wild animals and their parts in Asia. This black market has increased poaching of wild animals, which continues to deplete their populations.
The large interest in ivory has caused many elephants in Africa and Asia to be killed in the game parks where their tusks are removed and sold in some Asian countries. Neale and Burton reveal that rhinos have also been targeted by poachers because of the high value that is attached to their tusks in Asia (1-2).
Some rich businessmen purchase rare wild species in the black market and rear them in private ranches. These species are kept in the environments that are not suitable for their reproduction and growth. This has caused some species to become threatened and in some cases extinct.
Hunting activities threaten environmental sustainability in many regions. Uncontrolled hunting depletes the numbers of wild animals in their sanctuaries leading to their extinction. Hunting encourages environmental degradation because it reduces the ecological cycle that is present in such delicate habitats.
Hunting is also an abuse of animal rights because they are subjected to unnecessary pain, which ultimately leads to death. Malviya argues that this practice is unsustainable because it encourages tourists to seek their own selfish thrills out of killing wild animals (67).
The camp fires that are lit in wild reserves during hunting expeditions can spread bush fires and cause a lot of damage to the natural habitats of wild species in the area. Natural plant and tree species can disappear as a result of the destruction caused by bush fires.
It is necessary for appropriate policies to be put in place, which guide how tourism activities should be carried out. These policies should monitor the impact of tourist activities in the areas that have delicate ecosystems and which need greater protection.
There are policies in South Africa that allow the hunting of wildlife to take place. However, the practice faces a lot of opposition in other parts of Africa and the world because it is considered unsustainable. The South African government has issued hunting permits to private ranch owners.
Deere adds that they allow tourists to hunt some selected species of animals that are large in number (1-2). The hunting is done only in the presence of a guide to ensure that brutal methods are not used to kill the animals. The South African government claims that hunting helps to conserve the environment.
The people who defend the practice claim that excess numbers of animals are controlled and this limits environmental degradation. They argue that the habitats are pristine, which allows rapid breeding of the species and as a result, hunting helps to reduce overpopulation of these species.
Overpopulation is considered unsustainable for the environment because it leads to food shortages for the wild animals which can stray out of their habitats. Hunting ranches are given permits by the government and only a few numbers of tourists are allowed on each ranch.
The land has very few settlements to ensure that no other form of land use is practiced apart from hunting. Only excess male species are hunted because female species are considered important for continued breeding within the natural habitat (Deere 1-2). Hunting tourism in South Africa has achieved remarkable environmental sustainability in the country which is rare in any other part of the world.
In conclusion, policy makers and tourism stakeholders need to come up with better solutions that can reduce conflicts between tourism and the environment. This approach will help in conserving the environment from being desecrated by unsustainable tourism practices.
Buckley, Ralf. “Tourism and Environment.” Environment and Resources 36.1 (2011): 397-416. Print.
Candela, Guido, and Paolo Figini. The Economics of Tourist Destinations. New York: Springer, 2012. Print.
Deere, Nicolas Jordan. “Exploitation or Conservation? Can the Hunting Tourism Industry in Africa Be Sustainable?” Environment. Environment Mag., Jul. – Aug. 2011. Web.
Kamp, Christina. “Tourism and Social Conflict in Central America.” Tourism Watch. Tourism Watch Newsletter, 2010. Web.
Malviya, Sanchey. Tourism, Environment and the Society. New York: Gyan Publishing House, 2006. Print.
Neale, Greg, and James Burton. “Elephant and Rhino Poaching is Driven by China’s Economic Boom.” The Guardian. The Guardian Newspaper, 14 Aug. 2011. Web.