More than a billion people have started traveling every year, a trend set to rise as this decade moves on. The time is all the more significant for the tourism industry to find sustainable solutions to protecting the people and resources on which it relies. Since the last seven years, World Travel Market (WTM) holds the World Responsible Tourism Day towards this purpose. Observed on the 6th of November, the event is marked with special events, communications, and consumer promotions, demonstrating the travel industry’s determination to make a real difference.
On the occasion of World Responsible Tourism Day 2013, Greener Pastures organized an educational cum fun trip to Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary for village children who study in Parijat Academy, a school for underprivileged village children. We chose Parijat due to the dedication of its principal Mr. Uttam Teron. A local philanthropist, Uttam first started the school with 3 students back in 2003. Since then, accolades have come to the school from around the world, and today the school remarkably has more than 500 students. The main idea behind this excursion was to create awareness among the students about the importance of wildlife and its preservation.
The day started with students arriving at the school at 8.30 in the morning for the bus to Pobitora. Located in Morigaon District of Assam about 2 hours from Guwahati, the journey to Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary crosses through lust greenery located besides the scenic bank of the Brahmaputra River. Upon reaching, the students were divided in different jeeps and henceforth started a thrilling safari into the wilds of the sanctuary. Some of the easy sightings the children had were that of wild Asian elephants and some rare migratory birds. However, for rhinos, which Assam is famous for, the search was not easy. To the excitement of the group, some rhinos were finally located grazing in the open fields at a distance. The jeep safari, through bumpy roads inside deep tropical jungle, came as quite exhilarating for the children. Though the safari lasted a satisfying 2 hours with plenty of sightings, not being able to spot a tiger came as a little disappointment to the children. But tigers, the king of Asian jungles, are the most elusive and seldom seen by visitors. Once back in the park’s entrance, our group was joined by Mr. Nipen Nath, an enthusiastic local environmentalist who works for the wildlife department. Mr. Nath proceeded by giving an interesting and informative talk to the kids about Pobitora, it’s history, the history of the magical town of Mayong, wildlife, its conservation, and most importantly, conservation of rhinos.
He mentioned that Pobitora initially used to be a village and grazing area for domesticated animals. Few pioneering villagers brought rhinos in Pobitora and educated others about the importance of wildlife. Impressed by their efforts, the villagers later demanded the government to declare Pobitora as a protected habitat and thus the wildlife sanctuary came into existence. Mr. Nath also talked about the magical village of Mayong which is situated nearby the sactuary. It is said that the people of Mayong had magical powers such as making tigers bow to their feet. Indeed, even today every other household in Mayong have practitioners of magic who follow ancient Hindu scripts. Further, Mr. Nath pointed out the importance of Rhinoceros as it is claimed to be the last descendant of the extinct species of Dinosaurs. But encroachers throughout Assam are killing them for the horn, a trade which eventually traces its origin back to China where horns sell for millions and are believed to contain aphrodisiac properties. Science has since long rubbished this belief as wrong and primitive. The children, having spotted the majestic rhinos earlier in the day, seemed enthusiastic to do something for the rhino’s plight.
Mr. Nath ended his speech comparing Mother Nature with one’s own mother. That as it is a responsibility of every child to take care and protect its mother, in the same way it is the responsibility of every human being to take care and protect our nature from any harm. Mr. Nath’s speech was the prime aim of our World Responsible Tourism Day activity as we wanted the trip to be also educational for the kids apart from being fun. And it felt satisfying to see the children were very fascinated with the knowledge and information given my Mr Nath.
Soon after, the children had their lunch where ethnic Assamese delicacies were served, and departed to Gorchuk in Guwahati where Parijat Academy is located.
Pleased with the results of our first ever participation in World Responsible Tourism Day, we hope to repeat similar responsible tourism endeavors in the coming years too, and hope to see more travel industry members show equal enthusiasm.