The Uttarakhand Himalaya (UH) is well known for its natural, adventurer, and pilgrimage tourism. The hill towns mainly Mussoorie, Nainital, Almora, and Ranikhet and the highland sacral pilgrimages--Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri have been remaining the major attraction for the tourists and pilgrims respectively for the centuries. The scenic and panoramic view of the UH further accelerates the scope for the tourism development. The holy rivers--Ganga, Yamuna, Saryu, Koshi, and their numerous tributaries originate from the glaciers of the Great Himalaya and flow through the entire UH; present a distinct and suitable place for tourism. The highland sacral pilgrimages, known as four dhams, are centauries old; provide innumerable sanctity for the Hindu pilgrims. Adventure tourism--mountaineering, trekking, river-rafting, rock climbing, and skiing are emerging as the major tourism attraction. Tourism of all forms, in a broader sense, has been practicing in the UH for time-immemorial. These forms of tourism have a tremendous impact on the environment and on the local socio-economic and cultural structures. Adventurer tourism, during the recent past, has been developed as national and international sports, sponsored by the Government. Skiing in Auli, a small service centre and an alpine meadow, covered by snow during the four months of winter, located in Chamoli District, and river rafting in the Lower Alaknanda River (LAR) are greatly emerging as the major attractions of tourism.
Tourism has emerged as a smog free industry and biggest source of revenue generation worldwide. Similarly, tourism industry is very important in mountain regions. It is estimated that mountains account for roughly 15-20% of the global tourism market, generating between 70 and 90 billion US dollars per year (FAO, 2005). Studies have shown that tourism is one of the more promising alternative livelihood options for the people in the Himalayan region (Sharma, 2000; East et al., 1988). However, it has both socio-economic and environmental implications. Tourism has largely transformed the socio-cultural entities. The waves of modern civilization from abroad and from the Indian sub-continent, influenced the rich socio-cultural aspects of the UH. This is especially caused by the large-scale practice of mass tourism. River rafting in the LAR during the winter and summer seasons, every year, has posed severe threats to the socio-culture and environment of the local people, particularly of women. The bank of river Alaknanda has been using as bathing spots by the women of nearby villages but now, they are unable to utilize this natural facility, largely because of the presence of numerous riverside camps. Further, adverse impact of tourism on the environment as degradation of forest and landscape, in and surroundings of the tourist places, is also enormous. Meanwhile, the practices of mass tourism have improved the economy and augmented employment to the local people. Within a short distance of 35 km, there are above 10 campsites of river-rafting on the course of the LAR. The economic growth due to establishment of the new avenues--dhawas, tea-stalls, restaurants, shops, and other banking and educational institutions, along the roadside, has rapidly provided a window for employment generation and earnings of foreign currency.
The main objective of this study is to examine the tourism potential in the UH and to illustrate how this potential can be used for the socio-economic development of the region, as this part of the Himalaya is economically underdeveloped. This study also evaluates the adverse impact of tourism on culture and on the environment.
Uttarakhand became the 27th state of the Republic of India on November 9, 2000, was carved out of Uttar Pradesh State. It occupies an area of 51,125 sq. km. and a population of about 10.6 million with 189 persons living in per sq. km. …