active involvement of local people in promoting eco-tourism has won international acclaim for Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve in Uttaranchal's Chamoli district. The project has bagged the second runners up position in the destination category of the Cond Nast Ecotourism Award, 2004. The annual awards, constituted by international travel magazine Cond Nast Traveler, which has its headquarters in New York, were published in the periodical's July 2004 issue. Prizes are given in the categories of tour operator, lodge/resort and destination.
"Since this half a million acre unesco-designated World Heritage Site in the Himalaya reopened last year, local villagers have taken steps to ensure that they maintain control of tourism operations in the region," commends the Cond Nast Traveler. "What we found noteworthy about the project was the degree of participation by local individuals and businesses in the area," points out Brook Wilkinson, senior assistant editor of the magazine.
While the government also promotes the area as a premier eco-tourism destination, it was the villagers' efforts that brought it to limelight. Conservator of forest (eco-tourism), Rajiv Bhartari, rues: "We train the locals and promote tourism. But the forest department does not get credit for its work."