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Indian Ocean Tsunami - Two Years On
Many of the communities in the Indian Ocean countries affected by the disaster two years ago are well on their way to recovery. The tsunami proved the significance of the social and economic roles of tourism in many of the countries in the Asia Pacific region that depend heavily on the income from international visitors.
A number of our members and friends in the Asia Pacific region have shared many encouraging and inspiring stories about their reconstruction efforts, many of them utilizing ecotourism activities to rebuild the lives of local people. We have been, on the other hand, greatly concerned about the reports that while many of the affected communities are struggling to provide food and shelter for the homeless and unemployed, rapid tourism development (and re-development) is preventing the survivors and displaced local residents from making smooth transition back to their homes.
TIES promotes ecotourism, defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people" (TIES, 1990). As spelled out in the above definition, the advancement of nature conservation and positive contributions to local communities are both integral parts of what makes ecotourism. We, therefore, encourage our readers to continue to advocate for the importance of ecotourism and responsible travel, and support initiatives by local organizations to effectively use ecotourism as a tool for sustainable development, to provide training and education for families who lost their breadwinners in the tsunami, to better prepare tour operators and guides for natural disasters, to improve guidelines on hotel/lodge construction, and to empower local communities through participation in sustainable tourism development.
Andaman Discoveries Press Release (December 20, 2006)
After the Wave – A Tsunami Devastated Village Embraces Respectful Tourism
Nartladda Klongwitti, or Chim as her friends call her, smiles as she welcomes the group of foreigners to her village on the Andaman Coast. Unlike the majority of visitors over the past few years, this group of visitors is not here to see the destruction wrought by the tsunami of 2004. Instead, they are here as tourists to enjoy the cultural and natural splendor of Tung Nang Dam, a village of 70 houses situated in between the coral reefs and dense rainforests of Southern Thailand. For full text and other information, please contact Andaman Discoveries: info[at]andamndiscoveries.com.
*Andaman Discoveries is a development project launched by the North Andaman Tsunami Relief (NATR) to help promote sustainable tourism in tsunami impacted villages.
SurfAid - Wave of Compassion
SurfAid is a non-profit humanitarian aid organization with offices in the USA, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, and with its program base in Padang, Indonesia. Dedicated to improve the health and well- being of people living in surf-rich regions, SurfAid works with the worldwide surfing community to enhance the healing power of cross-cultural partnerships. Since the 2004 Tsunami and the March 2005 Nias Earthquake, SurfAid has provided disaster relief and increased its commitment to developing long- term sustainable community health through the prevention of treatable disease and community education. (Source: SurfAid International)
Mangroves for the Future
Mangroves for the Future is a multi-country initiative for the conservation and restoration of coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, coral reefs, wetlands, and estuaries to sustain human livelihoods and reduce vulnerability among coastal communities in the Indian Ocean Region. "Mangroves for the Future" promotes long-term investment in coastal ecosystem conservation because they are part of the fundamental infrastructure for development. The initiative is covering twelve countries affected by the December 2004 tsunami in South and Southeast Asia and the Western Indian Ocean, including India , Indonesia , Maldives , Seychelles , Sri Lanka , and Thailand. (Source: IUCN News)
Report: Status of Coral Reefs in Tsunami Affected Countries
Edited by Clive Wilkinson, David Souter and Jeremy Goldberg and published by Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), ReefBase, Reef Check, and Coral Reef Degradation in the Indian Ocean (CORDIO), the report finds that most coral reefs in the Indian Ocean escaped serious damage from the December 2004 tsunami and could recover naturally within 5-10 years if human impacts are managed effectively. This is the most comprehensive report to date on tsunami impacts to reefs in the region. It reports that the cumulative effect of anthropogenic stresses on the environment remains the major threat to Indian Ocean coral reefs. These stresses include over-fishing, destructive fishing methods, sediment and nutrient pollution, and unsustainable coastal development. (Source: GCRMN).
Tourism Concern: Tourism & Post-Tsunami Reconstruction: a Second Disaster?
Tourism Concern is campaigning for displaced peoples’ rights to the coastal land and their involvement in the reconstruction process. Tricia Barnett, Director, said, "The tourism industry is treating the tsunami aftermath as a financial opportunity. This has resulted in strategic displacement of traditional fishermen communities from the coast and their livelihood," She continued, "The ongoing impacts on tsunami survivors, the loss of their livelihoods and natural resources are devastating and need to be addressed.” In Sri Lanka, India and Thailand there is conflict between the needs of local communities affected by the tsunami and the plans of government and businesses to rapidly promote tourism in the area. (Source: Tourism Concern Press Release, December 4, 2006)
UN Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery
"Several of the countries struck by the tsunami were tourist destinations. In the Maldives, for example, tourism accounts for nearly one-third of GDP. Tourist facilities continue to be upgraded and rebuilt, and countries are ready to welcome back tourists. The tsunami presents the international community with a critical challenge: will we stay the course in the recovery process even after the world’s attention has turned to other crisis? ... This effort will take years, and we must see it through." - Former US president William J. Clinton, chair of the November 15 meeting of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery