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The mountains are calling and I must go, and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.

- John Muir

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Environment

Aug 23, 2018

A Ban on Rafting and Poor Governance in Uttarakhand

Rafting has vastly boosted the local economy. The government didn’t provide these jobs, but has benefited from them. If not thankful, the state could have been a little mindful.

WRITTEN BY

Jahnvi Pananchikal

The recent and total rafting ban, four years after a ban on rafting camps, has stirred uncomfortable conversations in the adventure community. Perhaps it’s time that we all learnt a lesson.

Here’s a good place to start: Eco-tourism is sustainable, helping the environment and the local community. Mass tourism is damaging and inconsiderate, usually with a detrimental effect on the natural environment.

Adventure sports can be integrated either sustainably or unsustainably. It largely depends on how they are introduced and handled by the regional government and the local community.

“Rafting is a self-generating business; people have found employment by themselves.”

The natural environment in Uttarakhand has a lot to offer as a peaceful retreat and a source of income, in ways that are respectful to nature and sustainable for the community. However, the government’s disorganised approach, focused on short-term-benefits, has landed this state in much trouble. Government bodies have legislated regulations and policies without consideration for a longterm strategy.

“Rafting is a self-generating business; people have found employment by themselves. The government gets taxes from the local development, but receives a lot more money from power and road projects. Comparatively, it’s not worth their time. They look at the bigger fish,” tells Pradeep Raj Singh, Founder of Paddy Adventures.

Recent Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in courts serve as warning signals against the impact of mass tourism. This is clearly the time for thoughtful organisation and constructive dialogue.

Both of the recent PILs led to court orders without advance notice. Detailed surveys of existing ecological footprints were missing and local employment was not considered.  The recent ban was imposed without taking into account that over 40,000 people are directly or indirectly employed by 280 rafting companies.

“Currently, there is no right leadership in the state. But there’s a lot of scope. You just need the right kind of approaches and perspectives.”

“We were given a permit every year to do adventure sports for 18 years, with listed rules and regulations,” laments Vipin, Founder of Red Chilli Adventures. “Yet the high court puts an order and asks the government to show the papers for rafting regulations. We personally lost business of 5-6 lakhs and I paid for those losses from my personal savings. It didn’t just affect the ones who own rafting companies, but also impacted the vegetable sellers, the hotel businesses, and transportation companies. Not just the rafting companies, but everyone lost business. For us, rafting is not even about business; it’s more of survival. The government has no jobs for people.”

Photo: Aquaterra

“There were so many PILs filed in the previous years, but nothing was done about them. Something like this was not required. There could have been a time limit, like a month’s notice. If the government didn’t submit sufficient documents, then they could have imposed a ban,” adds Pradeep from Paddy Adventures.

Both Pradeep and Vipin are rafting instructors who have been in the industry for over twenty years. They feel that the potential of organised and responsible tourism in Uttarakhand is untapped largely due to poor leadership, especially when compared to states like Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.

“Currently, there is no right leadership in the state. But there’s a lot of scope. You just need the right kind of approaches and perspectives.  The first step needs to be taken properly but the first step is not happening. This recent ban is a big opportunity for that first step to take place,” shares Pradeep.

“They could have had a conversation and investigated more to see what’s there and what’s not before imposing the ban. Fortunately, Uttarakhand tourism has taken advice from rafting companies, including my own, to make some amendments in the policies. One was regarding rafting companies using smaller vehicles to carry big rafts. The other was about the training of guides to include mandatory first aid course and swift water rescue training,” adds Vipin.

“Now, before the season starts, things are looking positive.”

Globally, national parks are generally preserved and adventure sports are permitted in nature. There are rules, procedures, training, and guidelines in place. People are given the freedom to benefit from nature in a responsible manner, and the state largely plays the role of an enabler and facilitator. In a nation that truly cares about nature and understands its crucial role in sustaining the human population, the desire to protect the forest would come naturally. It would also take charge of communication that helps educate the population about the importance and benefits of acting responsibly.

The rafting season is about to start in Uttarakhand. Many are hoping that the court will reconsider the report submitted by the tourism board, and lift the ban.  Members of the recent meeting, who are senior rafting guides in established companies known for good compliance, addressed existing loopholes in the recent report.

“Right now everyone is sitting idle and waiting for something to happen. The ban was imposed in the wrong way, but luckily it was at the end of the season. Now, before the season starts, things are looking positive,” shares Pradeep.

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Environment

May 14, 2019

Bringing Kiwi Back to Wellington

As New Zealand announces a new plan to reverse the decline of the iconic kiwi bird, Wellingtonians are already lining up to save their emblematic bird.

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WRITTEN BY

Sean Verity

This article was made available to The Outdoor Journal via a press release by Tourism New Zealand.

As New Zealand announces a new plan to reverse the decline of the iconic Kiwi bird, Wellingtonians are already lining up to save their emblematic bird. Wellingtonians are known for their love of flat whites and their passion for the arts. But there’s a new pastime that’s rapidly growing in New Zealand’s capital and all around the country.

Assembling and setting traps for rats, stoats and other predators in their own backyards. It’s a somewhat unlikely hobby, but in Wellington alone, there are now more than 70 community groups involved in pest management.  They’re all aiming at making their home town the first predator-free capital city in the world and a paradise for native birds such as the tīeke (Saddleback), hihi (stitchbird), kākā, kākāriki and toutouwai (North Island robin). 

In Wellington alone there are now more than 70 community groups involved in pest management all aiming at making their home town the first predator-free capital city in the world. Photo by: Capital Kiwi

Ever since conservation project Zealandia created a fully fenced 225-hectare ecosanctuary within the city limits in 1999, native birdlife has returned to many suburbs and Wellingtonians have embraced their avian friends. The groups are part of a groundswell of community conservation initiatives sweeping New Zealand and delivering fantastic results.

“Where once it would have been a remarkable sight to see a single kākā (a boisterous native parrot) in the wilderness of our mountain ranges, we now have literally hundreds of them across Wellington city, screeching across city skies,” says self-confessed “bird nerd” Paul Ward. Buoyed by the birdsong orchestra he thought, “Why stop there? Let’s bring back New Zealand’s most iconic bird, the Kiwi.” “The only time I’d seen a Kiwi growing up was in a zoo, and that’s not right for our national taonga (treasure),” he insists. 

The flightless birds with hair-like feathers and the chopstick bill have been absent from Wellington for over a century due to the loss of their habitat and the spread of predators. Ward’s ambitious project Capital Kiwi hopes to lure Kiwi back to the Wellington region within the next decade. Approximately 4,400 traps will be set on 23,000 hectares of public and private land stretching from the outskirts of town to the coast.

“Kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime”

As long as stoats, ferrets and weasels are around, Kiwi chicks have hardly any chance of surviving their first year.  An average of 27 Kiwis are killed by predators each day according to charity ‘Kiwis for Kiwi’ which supports community-led initiatives around the country. They warn that at this rate “Kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime.” 

But projects in Rakiura / Stewart Island in the south of New Zealand, Whangarei Heads in the north and Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty have shown that with the involvement of the community as kaitiaki (guardians) it is possible to grow a wild Kiwi population. 

The project Capital Kiwi hopes to bring New Zealand’s iconic birds back to Wellington by setting more than 4,000 traps in the hills on the outskirts of the city. Photo by: Capital Kiwi.

Michelle Impey, from Kiwis for Kiwi explains that one of the challenges of Kiwi conservation is “getting people to understand and care about something they can’t see and don’t experience.”

Kiwis are nocturnal, and with only a few exceptions live far removed from cities, towns and villages. “Bringing Kiwi closer to where Kiwis live makes them top of mind, completely relevant, and creates a sense of ownership with those who are privileged enough to have them living on or near their land,” Impey adds. She hopes that the new project will create “a city of Kiwi conservationists” who feel a personal attachment to their national bird. 

In August 2018 the government’s Predator Free 2050 initiative, which aims to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators that threaten the nation’s natural wildlife by 2050, announced their support for Capital Kiwi, committing more than NZ$3.2 million over the next five years.  It may sound like a lot of money, but the other way of looking at this is “What is the cost if we don’t?” Ward ponders.

“Can we, as a nation of Kiwis, afford to let our national icon die and become extinct? What would that say about us as guardians of the taonga (treasure) that makes our country so special and unique?”

https://www.outdoorjournal.com/featured/environment/reaction-european-single-use-plastic-ban/

Ninety-year-old Ted Smith, who lives in the small seaside settlement of Makara just over the hills from Wellington, helped to kick off the project with the setting of the first trap in November. He and his local community started trapping in their backyards a decade ago which resulted in a remarkable increase in birdlife – tūī, kākā, kererū, pūkeko, kingfishers, quails and others. “If we allow Kiwi to die out then we deserve to be called idiots,” he says. Wellingtonians love the vision of having Kiwi rummaging through their gardens and Ward says he’s been overwhelmed with the offers of help and support from the community.  

“We want to see Kiwi come back into Wellington”

Capital Kiwi has received hundreds of emails from people keen to help. Schoolchildren are now monitoring tracking tunnels, mountain bikers and trail runners check reserve trap lines on lunchtime rides and families come together to build traps. If the eradication proves successful after three years, the Department of Conservation will look at translocating Kiwi to the hillsides. The hope is that in less than a decade, tourists will be able to post their Kiwi encounters on the outskirts of Wellington on social media, and locals will beam with pride at hearing the shrill call of the country’s iconic birds in their backyards. 

“I would love to be woken up by the sound of the Kiwi. We want to see Kiwi come back into Wellington,” the capital’s Major Justin Lester says. 

The Department of Conservation is backing Capital Kiwi too. “Getting Kiwi back into the hills of Wellington where people can hear them call is a great way to demonstrate what New Zealand could look like if we get rid of the stoats and ferrets,” DOC’s Jack Mace says. 

“It would certainly add another feather to Wellington’s cap as one of the best places to see New Zealand’s unique wildlife.”

Introducing The Outdoor Voyage

Whilst you’re here, given you believe in our mission, we would love to introduce you to The Outdoor Voyage – our booking platform and online marketplace which only lists good operators, who care for sustainability, the environment and immersive, authentic experiences. All listed prices are agreed directly with the operator, and we promise that 86% of any money spent ends up supporting the local community that you’re visiting. Click the image below to find out more.

Cover Photo: New Zealand’s little spotted Kiwi at Zealandia Eco-sanctuary in Wellington. Photo by: Zealandia Eco-sanctuary

 

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