Author: T. Woods, Institute of Development Studies, UK

Paper Abstract: The hill stations of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani in the Western Ghats, India, have been a popular location since British soldiers visited to escape the heat of the lowland plains. In recent years, the growth of India's consumer class, combined with increasing access to private and public transport, has led to damaging new tourist developments. Problems include the clearance of natural vegetation for hotels and facilities, the cutting of trees for fuel wood, increased pressure on water and electricity resources, pollution from vehicles, overcrowding and litter. These are serious concerns, due to the fragility and ecological importance of the forest and scrubland in the region. The character of Mahabaleshwar in particular has also changed, from a tranquil place for relaxing and appreciating nature to busy commercialized resort. Local authorities and environmental groups have made efforts to control these problems, but these have so far proved ineffective. Few people want to limit the growth of tourism in the region; most local residents, business owners and government planners favour the continued growth of mass tourism. This raises important questions about who should dictate the future pattern of tourism and whether environmental preservation is preferable to local economic growth, even when there are few alternative prospects. This study examines why previous measures to make tourism more environmentally sustainable have been unsuccessful. A management plan is suggested which divides the region into zones of different tourism activity, with emphasis on establishing ecotourism. This proposal is a new approach to solving the problems caused by tourism and, in theory, satisfies the conflicting aims of environmental preservation and economic development.

© 2005 WIT Press WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, Vol 81 

Source:, ISSN 1743-3541 (on-line) Ecosystems and Sustainable Development V 301