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Responsible Ecotourism
Responsible Ecotourism

Ecotourism, both in the form of hiking and backpacking and as car camping, has flourished in recent years among Iranians, youth in particular. In addition, organized ecotourism operated by travel and touring agencies has also experienced a dramatic rise.

Considering the impact that the presence of nature tourists could have on wildlife and their  habitats and on local communities, a number of ethical and professional guidelines should be defined and respected by all those involved in ecotourism business and practice.  I have been personally involved in the outdoors since early adolescence and have experienced all kinds of outdoor activities inside and outside Iran. A recurring observation that I have had is that in some natural sites that become popular among nature goers a serious problem of congestion of people may occur. Presence of too many visitors which is usually accompanied by all kinds of noise pollution often diminishes the experience of solitude and deep enjoyment of pleasant natural sounds in back country that is primarily expected of the outdoors. In some countries, to solve the problem of congestion some regulations are instituted that require visitors to register in advance and only permit a certain number of visitors per day to a designated area. We lack such regulations In Iran and guidelines that sometimes are issued typically deal with keeping up with proper religious codes of conduct in public.

In what follows, I will try to list a few general principles for an ecotourism that is done responsibly and in accordance with ethical norms of being in nature. This list merely includes the general codes and is by means a comprehensive ethical guideline for ecotourists and other outdoorspeople. In future commentaries I will try to illustrate in more detail what practical steps need to be taken to satisfy the general guidelines suggested here.

1. In ecotourism we must respect the rights of all living beings in the area we enter, whether it is the local people or the wildlife and plants that live in that area.

2. A responsible visitor to nature never damages the habitat of living creatures.

3. We must always leave a natural environment intact and as it was before our entry.

4. We need to realize that our presence in a natural setting would in many ways mean some disruptions in the natural processes; therefore, we must try our best to minimize such disruptions.

5. In ecotourism, like in any use of natural resources, we must think of the sustainability of our activities; i.e., to act in such a way that we may always be able to continue using that resource and repeating our experience in future.

Kavous Seyed-Emami