As humans we all connect to nature invariably. We try to replicate, recreate and follow nature wherever possible. We keep flowerpots in our houses, if we get crayons, we draw trees, leaves, we create gardens in our community spaces, we hike, trek and camp to connect with nature. Gradually over the years our relationship with nature has become distant. Still most of us possess a desire to live in a place close to nature.
In recent times there is a growing interest for nature-based tourism, opening opportunities for green businesses. People are investing in land for farming, building resorts or for conservation. This tendency to invest in land to create sustainable business in harmony with nature is evident from increasing number of eco-resorts, medical resorts, yoga retreats, agri-tourism centres etc. These ventures have tourism as their foundations, sustainable business as their focus and nature conservation in background.
Most of these nature-based business projects are in remote forest areas. Natural water source is in the form of streams, waterholes and springs which are lifelines of forest and wildlife. These areas are sometimes also part of migratory routes of birds and other animals. Some of these forests also host rare trees, climbers and endemic species. These lands are some of the fragile and precious forest ecosystems.
Landowners generally are not aware of the ecology of the land. Clearing of land is one of the first step for project preparation. Such clearing of land indiscriminately has a “butterfly effect” on a larger forest area. It is planning and interfering with a system one knows nothing about.
If only planning can take natural geography and diversity of the area into consideration and make it a strength of the project. Let’s call it Ecological planning or Eco planning which means understanding the ecology of the area and planning around it to the benefit both the landowner and the land. Eco planning can come handful for the landowner from both sustainability and profitability point of view. It can become the Unique Selling Point (USP) of any nature-based project. It also ensures minimum environmental footprint of project. It’s like making the building around the tree and taking advantage of it instead of cutting it and spending money later for planting another tree.
For planning any project ecological planning can become a tool for bringing sustainability to the project.
In one of the case studies a businessman bought acres of land in a dense forest area with plans of farming. This land has a perennial river (which flows throughout the year). flowing through it. This man clears about 30 Acres of the evergreen forest, to start farming. He spends some lakhs to set up the farming activities in place. After appointing a farming consultant and spending one year struggling with the venture, he gave up. The venture was not becoming sustainable.
The process wasted his resources, his time and a very crucial forest was destroyed.
Eco-planning at the starting of the venture would have helped here to map the opportunities and restrictions which area presented. It might have helped him decide the kind of venture suitable for the area.
In another case-study a person bought land in forest area for an eco-resort. Ecological planning was carried out as part of long-term project planning. Ecological assessment was carried out and important habitats, distinct flora and wildlife was mapped. Butterfly attracting plants were planted, waterholes were created, jungle trails were identified with ecological planning. Areas which were important habitat were not disturbed during project development. The outcome is being used as tool for conservation tourism. It gave edge to the resort over other similar resorts.
Any land, irrespective of its intended use, like agro-tourism, medical tourism, resorts, growing food forest or conservation, should employ ecological planning for its advantage. Such planning is not only cost effective in a long term but saves resources, time, energy and regrets. It helps to understand the nature and character of the land better and therefore help in making better decisions about land’s appropriate use and management.
Any landowner must understand that they have a responsibility when they buy a land. Their decisions and their activities have irreversible effects on immediate land and a wider impact on earth. A little conscious planning can help both the immediate owner and the ultimate owner-the Earth.