Monday 24. March 2014

Benefits and Challenges of Tourism for Village Populations in India’s MPAs

On Wednesday, March 26, at 14:30, Dinyar Minocher will present his master's thesis in Coastal and Marine Management, titled: Benefits and Challenges of Tourism for Village Populations in India’s Marine Protected Areas: Case Studies from the Sundarbans National Park and the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park. His thesis advisors are 1) Dr Marc L. Miller, Professor of Marine and Environmental Affairs at the University of Washington, USA, and a Lecturer, “Tourism Policy and Planning in Coastal Areas” at the University Centre of the Westfjords and 2) Michael Honeth, MMM from Dalhousie University and a coastal expert. The external reader is Dr Jesse Hastings, lecturer and conservation scientist at the National University of Singapore.

The presentation will be in room 1-2 at the UW and everyone is welcome.



The success or failure of a marine protected area (MPA) is a direct result of the governing body’s ability to alleviate prevalent stresses on the respective ecosystem. In India, a nation hindered by overpopulation and poverty, resource dependency by local communities constitutes the greatest challenge for effective governance. For this, tourism is widely heralded as a sustainable alternative, providing a platform on which the needs of multiple stakeholders can be met. Conversely, as the term tourism continues to become synonymous with local economic benefit, one would be remiss to ignore that when improperly managed, the institution can lead to social conflict, increased marginalisation and socioeconomic degradation. This study investigates tourism trends, and the impacts of tourism in two of India’s MPAs– The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park and the Sundarbans National Park– with a focus on community perspectives. Data collection techniques included secondary literature and policy review, ethnographic field observations, 54 semi structured interviews, focus groups, and a social survey, across a wide scale of stakeholders in the two parks. Points of conflict are extracted and sources of social conflict categorised. Findings are similar in both MPAs, demonstrating above all, that while India is enthralled with tourism development, financial benefits reach too high to help the communities it occupies. Many villagers feel unheard and underrepresented, and institutional obstacles impede the prospect of tourism work. Freedoms are increasingly restricted, while tourism is given free rein to grow. Most notably, this study identifies the principal cause of social conflict to be poorly integrated decision-making bodies. An absence of coordination by governing actors breeds a lack of enforcement and accountability. Looking ahead, it is recommended that clear demarcation of the roles and responsibilities of governing agents should be a priority, while further studies are needed to better understand institutional obstacles impeding community involvement in MPA tourism.