Problems of Ecotourism and Ecoresort Developments, Associated with the Restriction of Access of the Indigenous Communities to the Vital Resources of Rural Regions in Developing Countries
Itam, Ekpenyong Bassey
Volgograd State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering,
Ita, Ekpe Esien,
Dept. of Civil Engineering, Cross River University of Technology, CRUTECH, Calabar, Nigeria.
In the earlier phases of ecotourism in the 1980-s, considerable emphasis was placed on two major factors: tourists and pristine natural environments. This emphasis can be discerned from the definition of ecotourism attributed to Ceballos-Lascurain. Following deliberations of international conventions on ecotourism, cultural and biological diversities (Berlin Declaration on Biological Diversity and Sustainable Tourism of 1997; the Quebec Declaration on Ecotourism of 2002; the Oslo Statement on Ecotourism of 2007 etc), another significant factor has become recognized today – the indigenous communities, within whose traditional domains ecotourism is expected to flourish. Research has shown that the benefits that should accrue from ecotourism to indigenous communities do not very often accrue, especially in the developing countries; and this has resulted in conflicts between international tourists and indigenous communities. In this paper, the possibilities of preventing such conflicts, through the formulation of appropriate architectural conceptions for ecoresort developments, have been explored.
Introduction – Ecotourism and the Developing Countries
According to G. Wall , the “term
‘ecotourism’ is usually attributed to Ceballos-Lascurain, who defined it
as ‘tourism that consists in travelling to relatively undisturbed or uncontaminated
natural areas with the specific objective of studying, admiring, and enjoying
the scenery and its wild plants and animals, as well as any existing cultural
manifestations (both past and present) found in these areas.’” In this early
definition of ecotourism, the emphasis on the pleasure of the tourists is
evident. This emphasis is still being played out by investors in ecotourism projects,
in circumstances in which appropriate national regulations are not strictly
enforced (the developing countries). This contradicts the present worldview of
ecotourism (Berlin Declaration on Biological Diversity and Sustainable Tourism
of 1997 ; the Quebec Declaration on Ecotourism of 2002 ; the Oslo
Statement on Ecotourism
According to H. Ayala [1, 2], natural and cultural heritages that were previously considered as peripheral or background issues in mass tourism, have now been “re-labeled” as the foremost attractions in ecotourism; and this has drawn the rural regions of the developing countries into the center stage of the orbit of world tourism. L Mastny  has described these trends in the following manner: “Rushing to capitalize on their rich natural and cultural attractions, many developing countries welcome tourism as a way to stimulate investments, generate foreign exchange earnings, and diversify economies. Tourism can be more lucrative and less resource-intensive than growing a single cash crop or pursuing traditional industries like mining, oil development and manufacturing”. According to Mbaiwa and Stronza , sustainable tourism has great potential “to bring social, economic and environmental benefits” to developing countries [1, 2, 12, 13].
The significant shift in international tourism that has accompanied the rise of ecotourism has been noted. The percentage of international tourists that traveled to the developing countries rose from about 7.7 percent (in the 1970-s) to slightly above 20 percent (by the end of the 20th century) . This trend has continued to intensify within the first decade of the 21st century. According to the 2008 report of WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council)  the growth rate of international tourism in Africa (5.9%), Pacific region of Asia (5.7%) and Middle East (5.2%) have superseded the value 4%, the global average annual growth rate since 2004; while the growth rates in America (2.1%) and Europe (2.3%) fell below the average. The contribution of travel and tourism to economies and employment worldwide is expected to rise from 8.4% (in 2008) to 9.2% (by 2018). Thus the influx of international tourists into the rural regions of the developing countries will continue to increase; and the developing countries will continue to welcome these trends towards the improvement of their national economies [12, 23].
Ecotourism is associated with some levels of responsibility. The expectation is that the social and economic benefits that accrue to developing countries from ecotourism must result in the improvement of the livelihoods of the indigenous communities and also foster the cause of conservation; and this position has been emphasized in the work of P. Wight : “Ecotourism: Ethics or Eco-Sell?”. Thus, resort developments for ecotourism (ecoresort developments) must be based on this fundamental criterion of ecotourism – the recognition of the rights of indigenous communities to resources located within their traditional domains. However, recent studies have revealed that the planning of ecotourism and ecoresort developments in developing countries has not often been sufficiently comprehensive; very often, neglecting the interests of indigenous communities. Some of the trends and consequences of this negligence are discussed in this paper .
Ecotourism and the Vital Interests of the Indigenous Communities
According to H. Ayala [1, 2], the incorporation of the indigenous communities in ecotourism and ecoresort development programmes is of critical importance to the success of the ecotourism programme itself. The indigenous people possess very adept knowledge of the natural and cultural heritages located within their traditional domains. This adept knowledge gives them immense capacities to contribute to the prosperity of an ecotourism programme that offers them very tangible benefits; and also to destroy one that is not directly beneficial to them. According to J. Butcher , the indigenous communities must constitute a very distinct and fundamental factor in the planning, operation and regulation of ecotourism and ecoresort development programmes [1, 2, 5].
The Final Report of the World Ecotourism Summit, 2002  posited that ecotourism should be the means by which indigenous communities “conserve and derive benefits from natural and cultural resources” located within their traditional domains ; and that, as a “principle”, ecotourism and ecoresort development programmes should “allow indigenous communities, in a transparent way, to define and regulate the use of their areas at the local level” . Furthermore, they should provide “a source of livelihood for local people which encourages and empowers them to preserve the biodiversity in their area” . The Quebec Declaration on Ecotourism  argues for the promotion of “the cultural integrity of the host community”; and furthermore:
Recognize the cultural diversity associated with many natural areas, particularly because of the historical presence of local and indigenous communities, of which some have maintained their traditional knowledge, uses and practices, many of which have proven sustainable over centuries.
UNEP and UNWTO, 2002b
The alienation of indigenous communities from the social and economic benefits of ecotourism (by curtailing their access to the vital resources located on their traditional and historical domains) is thus an aberration of the cardinal principles of ecotourism and ecoresort developments; but it has often been observed in the processes of development of tourism facilities that are undertaken with off-shore capital (most especially in the developing world) [18, 19].
P. Pattullo  and A. Holden  have cited the example of Antigua, where long stretches of local beaches have been destroyed by companies engaged in the construction of tourism projects locally, and also in the Virgin Islands. A. Holden  has discussed the case of Goa (in India), where the development of tourism hotels has excluded the local population from the use of their beaches; at ‘Cidade de Goa Hotel’, a tourist hotel in Goa, a 2.4 meter wall fence was constructed, demarcating the beach and thereby curtailing the access of the local peoples to it [10, 14].
Restriction of access of the local peoples to water and electricity has also caused discontent in Goa. At the ‘Taj Holiday Village’ and ‘Fort Aguada Beach Resort Hotels (in Goa), tourists have unlimited access to water, while the nearby villages are denied access to water (from the pipeline) even for up to one or two hours in a day . In Goa also, the local peoples lack dependable access to electric power; yet one guest (in a 5-star tourist hotel in the area) consumes 28 times the electric power used by one local resident . These restrictions have resulted in protests against tourism (and sometimes open aggression against tourists) in this region .
N. Salem  has estimated that the quantity of water consumed by 100 guests in a luxury tourist hotel in 55 days is sufficient to sustain the households of 100 rural farmers for three years, and 100 urban families for two years. A. Holden  has cited the case of Tepotzian (in Mexico), where the local people protested against the development of 800 tourist villas along with a golf course. It was estimated that the water requirements for daily sustenance of the project, would result in drastic water shortages in the town. Other problems (of tourism and resort developments) associated with the curtailment of the access of indigenous people to water resources have also been documented. One instance involves the diversion of water upstream for the development of resorts and other tourist facilities; resulting in the lack of sufficient water for the irrigation of the farmlands in the indigenous communities. Another instance involves the over-extraction of sub-soil waters through the deep wells located in resorts, leading to the lowering of sub-soil water levels; and, in consequence, the shallow wells located in the indigenous communities become dry (see Fig. 2) [10, 15].
Another key issue is access of the indigenous communities to land for their livelihood activities; agriculture and grazing lands, in particular. Large expanses of farmlands are used up for the development of tourism facilities (airports, golf courses, resorts etc). The use of agricultural lands for the development of tourism facilities (seaports and airports) has resulted in heavy dependence on imported foods in the Maltese Islands [4, 10]. In Kenya, the establishment of the Masai-Mara Game Park has resulted in the displacement of the Masai people form their traditional grazing fields and lands. L. Mastny  has discussed the specific problems of golf in resort developments. Golf demands land; and every year “up to 5,000 hectares of the Earth’s land surface – an area half the size of Paris – are cleared for golf courses” . It also demands water; “one 18-hole course can consume 2.3 million liters of water daily” . The specific case of an island in Malaysia has been cited, where a popular golf course consumes “as much water annually as a local village of 20,000” . Thus, it is not advisable to associate golf with ecoresort developments in the rural regions of the developing countries [4, 5, 12].
In general, tourist demands for specific locations change very rapidly. In the events of such changes, the use of prime agricultural and grazing lands for tourism development may result in serious ecological and economic consequences for the indigenous peoples; and this would be a contradiction of the cardinal principles of ecotourism and ecoresort developments, as articulated by the UN [18, 19].
Ecoresort Developments for Developing Countries
The ecoresort is the principal factor that places international tourists directly within the traditional domains of the indigenous peoples; and creates demands for resources that are often in very short supply in the rural regions of the developing countries: water, electricity and appropriate sewage disposal systems. In the process of its development, care must be taken to avoid the use of prime agricultural and grazing lands, upon which the livelihoods of indigenous peoples have depended for several generations. C. W. Shanklin  has recommended that comprehensive studies and researches on the vital resources of the region should constitute the prerequisites for ecotourism and ecoresort developments in ecologically sensitive territories. The objective is to ensure that indigenous peoples have equitable access to the same resources upon which they depend for their livelihood activities; and upon which tourism development also depends. In order to reduce the ecological impacts of ecotourism on indigenous communities, ecoresort development programmes should be based on detailed studies, pertaining to the following issues:
· the physical structures and peculiarities of the territory, and also traditional landuse patterns of the indigenous communities;
· the locations of the indigenous communities in the territory, and the peculiarities of their settlement patterns;
· the hydrographic and hydrological peculiarities of the territory;
· the general characteristics of the vital resources of the territory, which will be placed in the common usage of the tourists and the indigenous communities;
· the long-term relationships of the ecoresort establishments and the indigenous communities.
This study has revealed that, lured by the high revenues that accrue from tourism, national governments (in developing countries) have often granted inappropriate concessions to foreign tourism development organizations; to the detriment of the socio-economic interests of the indigenous communities. Thus, driven by poverty and desperation, the indigenous communities could resort to destroying the natural and cultural resources upon which tourism development relies; and the inevitable decline of tourism itself would set in [1, 2, 16, 18].
Discussion – The Ecoresort Establishment and the Indigenous Peoples
In specific case of Cross River State of Nigeria, the Cross River National Park complex and the large expanses of tropical rainforests that surround it constitute the principal resources for ecotourism and ecoresort developments. A very large portion of the forest estates outside the national park complex is constituted as community forest estates. The only condition for ecotourism and ecoresort development programmes to be successful here is if they would be beneficial to the indigenous communities. There are already existing interest groups that are poised at luring the local peoples into poaching and illegal trade in good quality timber; and NGO’s have been combating these activities (by local court actions and international campaigns) for about two decades now. The indigenous peoples would thus have the incentives to apply their in-depth knowledge of these natural resources towards the destruction of an ecotourism that would not grant them very tangible benefits.
Architecture of the Ecoresort Establishment. In the architecture of ecoresorts, the fundamental aspiration is to create an ecoresort environment that is both ecologically and culturally compatible with its location (the concepts of ecological sensitivity, and also of ecological and cultural affinity). According to R. K. Dowling , an ecoresort should be “environmentally sensitive” in design; the design, development and management of an ecoresort should be based on the principle of minimization of “its adverse impact on the environment, particularly in the areas of energy and waste management, water conservation and purchasing”. Waste management deserves appropriate attention in the architecture of ecoresorts developments in rural regions; according to L. Mastny, the “UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that the average tourist produces one kilogram of solid waste and litter each day” [1, 2, 9, 12].
The ecoresort has a symbolic presence in the rural region in which the business of ecotourism is conducted; within the consciousness of the indigenous peoples it is the physical embodiment and reflection of ecotourism. It is essential to use the architecture of ecoresorts as a means of invoking positive impressions of ecotourism on the part of the indigenous peoples. The impression created by the physical manifestation of the ecoresort could be a feeling of deprivation and oppression; if the presence of the ecoresort results in the deprivation of the access of the indigenous peoples to the vital resources, on which their lives have depended for several generations. On the other hand, the indigenous peoples would be positively disposed towards ecotourism if, through it, their youths have meaningful employment and also if the state of environmental services in the region are improved; for example, introduction of: 1) new methods of electric power supply (by solar energy); 2) new water schemes that are also made available to the indigenous communities. The long-term benefits that the ecotourism venture would derive from such gestures far out-weigh the initial cost outlays.
The application of the principle of cultural affinity or contextualism in the architecture of ecoresorts is very essential in rural regions. According to H. Ayala [1, 2], cultural affinity means much deeper than the cosmetic application of local traditional motifs and artworks within an ecoresort complex; it means association with the local cultures by the incorporation of elements of the traditional architecture and arts of the local peoples in ecoresort developments. An ecoresort that is culturally associative with the region is most likely to invoke the required positive attitudes on the parts of the indigenous communities. In order to achieve this, it is essential to apply local architectural styles, crafts, technologies and building materials. In the planning of the ecoresort settlement, it is also essential to create special spaces for social and cultural interactions between the indigenous communities and the tourists. In the contrary circumstance, an ecoresort that is based on foreign architectural styles manifests as a foreign imposition on the traditional domains of the indigenous peoples; and the attitudes of the local peoples would be shaped by their perceptions of such foreign intrusion. From the perspective of the international tourists, it would be more rewarding and desirable to study a culture by living within its characteristic spatial configurations, than by viewing it in films, picture galleries and museums [1, 2].
Road Engineering Infrastructures. It would ordinarily be presumed that construction of road infrastructures for ecoresort developments in the rural regions of the developing countries would only result in direct benefits to the indigenous peoples. Within this general conception, in opening up the rural regions to international tourism, such road transportation infrastructures are expected to grant the indigenous people improved transportation networks for the conduct of their livelihood activities. This is unarguably true; however recent studies have also shown that unless such road engineering infrastructures conform to specific environmental standards, they could also become the direct sources of some ecological problems in the rural communities. The principal problems that could be associated with road infrastructures are distortion of natural hydrological processes and pollution of water resources, by reason of the use of impervious pavements. The probabilities are that many roads would be constructed with impervious pavements; because, in comparison, permeable pavers are fairly scarce in developing countries, and they are also two or three times more expensive [6, 7, 8].
Ecoresort buildings and complexes are usually small; and empirical studies have indicated that the cumulative surface areas of the roads that lead tourists to the national parks and to the ecoresort establishments as well as the walkways within the ecoresort could account for above 65-70 percent of imperviousness of the territory. Thus it is expedient to address the subject of ecological impacts of imperviousness from the point of view of design of road engineering infrastructures.
Recent studies have shown that the use of impervious pavements in the construction of roads has serious environmental impacts on the water resources and aquatic ecosystems. In the specific context of ecotourism developments in the rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa, depletion or pollution of water resources amounts to the curtailment of the access of the indigenous peoples to the vital resources upon which their lives had depended for generations. The principal ecological impacts of impervious pavements on the water resources of the indigenous communities are: 1) increases in the volumes of runoff; 2) increases in peak discharge rates; 3) increases in bankfull flow; and 4) decreases in baseflow .
The use of impervious pavers and concrete drains in road construction results in decreases in infiltration and increases in stormwater runoffs (see fig. 1).
Fig. 1. Reduction in infiltration by reason of increases in imperviousness results in the depletion of underground waters and pollution of surface waters; and thereby could lead to the curtailment of the access of indigenous communities to fresh water in ecotourism development. Credit for diagramme is ascribed to: Wikimedia Commons.
Runoff coefficient is the numerical factor (ranging from 0 to 1) that expresses the volume of runoff in relationship with a given volume of rainfall. Studies on the relationship between imperviousness (measured in percentages) and runoff coefficient have shown that there is a direct relationship between these two parameters; runoff coefficient approaches 1 as imperviousness approaches 100 percent . Increases in runoffs lead to the discharge of large volumes of water into surface waters at periods of peak rainfalls; this is the phenomenon that is described in this work as “increases in peak discharge rates”. Stormwater runoffs contain pollutants that could render surface waters unsuitable for domestic use. Increases in runoffs thus result in increased pollution of water resources; and also in higher risks of floods in communities located on the sides of streams, lakes or rivers. Bankfull flow is the condition in which the channel of a stream (or other surface waters) is filled to the brim; the point at which further addition of water from stormwater runoffs results in the overflow of surface waters on to the flood plains in the communities. The frequency of the occurrence of this overflow is related to the volumes of stormwater runoffs that reach the stream [6, 7, 8].
Increases in stormwater runoffs are indicative of reduction in infiltration (see Fig. 1). Reduction of infiltration affects the water resources of indigenous communities in two ways. Firstly, it results in decreases in baseflow. Baseflow is the discharge from underground waters that supports the flow of streams during the dry seasons. Reduction of infiltration reduces the capacities of underground waters to support the flow of streams in dry seasons and this could result in dry streams during such seasons. Secondly, the depletion of underground waters could result in the problem of dry wells in the communities; because the communities depend on shallow wells for their supply of drinking water. In ecoresort developments, the problem of dry wells could also occur in accompaniment with the circumstances of over extraction of underground waters for use in tourist establishments. In such instances, the shallow wells of the communities run dry, while the deep wells in the tourist establishments continue to function (see Fig. 2) [6, 7, 8].
Fig. 2. Problems of imperviousness, increased runoffs and the water resources of indigenous communities in ecoresort developments. (Illustration is done by the authors by the adaptation and modification of the original base drawings obtained from Wikimedia Commons). Credit for base drawing is ascribed to: Wikimedia Commons.
In the circumstances in which it is inevitable to use impervious pavements, it becomes desirable to apply ecological methods towards the reduction of the total volumes of runoffs that are discharged into surface waters. This requires the application of the modern technique of “source control”, an approach radically different from the 20th century approach, which consisted in the collection of stormwaters from the sources and the transportation by concrete drain channels into nearby surface waters. Source control involves the collection of stormwaters from impervious pavements into systems that facilitate their infiltration, in such manners that no volume of stormwaters reaches the surface waters. In the construction of roads and walkways, the use of concrete drain channels should, therefore, be completely avoided. Roads and walkways should be constructed in the form of an integrated system in which the runoffs are directed into vegetated drains that are constructed alongside the roads and walkways. Vegetated drains facilitate the infiltration of stormwaters into the subsoil. At the points at which the capacities of the vegetated drains (for total infiltration of the runoffs) have been exceeded, then the stormwaters in the vegetated drains should be directed into retention basins and/or constructed wetlands. The objective is to ensure the complete collection and infiltration of the total volumes of stormwaters generated by impervious pavements [6, 7, 8].
In the specific
instance of ecotourism and ecoresort developments in
· The ecoresort development programme should begin with comprehensive studies of the natural and cultural resources of the territory, to reveal the intrinsic values of these resources to the indigenous communities.
· Comprehensive studies should also be conducted on the spatial structures of traditional settlements of the indigenous communities, their traditional land-use patterns and livelihood activities; and also their access to the vital resources of the territory (such as water and electric power).
· Incorporation of the members of the indigenous communities into the decision-making processes in the ecoresort development programmes would be desirable and consistent with the demands of the UN.
· The architecture of ecoresort buildings should incorporate traditional architectural styles; and also, local materials and technologies should be applied in the construction and maintenance of buildings and complexes.
· It is essential to provide cultural parks and other places for social and cultural interactions, in order to enable international tourists to properly appreciate the cultural peculiarities of the region.
· Pervious pavements are recommended for roads and walkways. In the events that the use of impervious pavements should be inevitable, then the runoffs from roads and walkways should be directed into vegetated drains and infiltration trenches or basins, in order to eliminate the possibilities of discharge of stormwater runoffs into surface waters.
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