Montenegro: UN-backed project turns toxic site into ecotourism hub

16 mojkovac 150x150 ECOT3By: UN News – A United Nations-backed project in northern Montenegro has transformed a town blighted by pollution from a nearby zinc mine into a magnet for ecotourism that aims to now attract kayakers, bicyclists and mountain hikers.

Municipal officials in the town of Mojkovac organized the clean-up of a lake poisoned by chemical run-off from the former mine into a recreational area based around adventure tourism and ecotourism, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) reported yesterday.

The project is part of the UNDP-backed Western Balkans Environmental ‘Hot Spots’ programme, a three-year initiative funded by the Netherlands to assist areas in the region that suffered from industrial pollution.

UNDP is working with the municipality to develop organic agriculture and possible alternative uses for the closed mine, such as a museum or underground bicycle trail. A kayak club has been set up and other ecotourism opportunities are being explored.

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark visited Mojkovac with national officials yesterday, hailing the project for removing the “rather toxic legacy” from the town.

“I think Montenegro has a really special environment out there and the opportunities for ecotourism are endless,” she said. “You can do anything out there in those hills and valleys!”

Miss Clark is visiting Montenegro and Moldova as part of a trip spotlighting the two Eastern European countries’ efforts to reduce poverty and boost social and economic development.

After arriving in Chisinau, Moldova, Miss Clark told reporters today that the country had made progress on most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the social and economic targets which world leaders have agreed to strive to attain by 2015.

Later this month the world’s countries will gather at UN Headquarters in New York to review overall progress so far and determine where efforts should be focused over the next five years.

The UNDP chief also said her agency would work closely with Moldova to help it recover economically from the impact of recent floods.

A Tale of Two Deltas

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by Roddy Bray: In northern Botswana we found areas like the Okavango Delta and the Chobe teeming with wildlife, and ecotourism making a major contribution to the economy. Yet just to the north, across the rivers in Namibia’s Caprivi region we hardly saw a single animal or bird… not even the ubiquitous monkeys. We began to ask why the contrast should be so stark.

As we have travelled through Africa, we have seen the potential of ecotourism to preserve wildlife and tackle poverty. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in northern Botswana. The north of the country is almost entirely reserved for wildlife, and is famous for its predators and home to over 120,000 elephants. In particular, the Okavango River fans into the Kalahari desert, creating a vast region of rivers, islands and waterways. This delta was referred to dismissively as ‘the swamps’ at the time of independence, of no economic value. Today it has become the premier wildlife area in southern Africa, with lodges charging as much as $1,000 per person/ night.

Tourism recently became the No.2 earner for Botswana (after diamonds) overtaking its strong cattle industry. But over the border, in the Caprivi region of Namibia, the contrast is striking.

Namibia’s Caprivi, a corridor of land that separates Botswana from Angola and Zambia is, if anything, even better suited to wildlife than northern Botswana. It too has a delta system, Mamili. It shares the Chobe and Kwando rivers with Botswana. On the south bank, in Botswana, there are huge herds of elephant and large numbers of other species, but in the two weeks we spent in the Caprivi we saw hardly any wildlife. The Caprivi, in fact has advantages over the land to the south. It has large grasslands and the Zambezi River on its northern border. The Caprivi should be even more abundant in wildlife than Botswana, and huge herds should be migrating across the rivers. Yet Caprivi statistics from 2008 shows that wildlife numbers are tiny – most species in the Kwando region, home to most of the nature reserves, have less than 100 members. Only 0.1% of the population were employed in ecotourism full time, and the total income from all safari concessions was little more than $500,000 p.a., and almost all of this was from hunting. The contrast with Botswana could not be sharper.

Investigating this contrast I found a story of Army Generals. The South African army occupied the Caprivi in the 1970s and 1980s, a frontline buffer in its war with Angola. The apartheid generals developed a ‘sideline’ in hunting. Giraffe, eland and black rhino were eliminated altogether. As animal stocks declined the army tried to stop local communities from hunting. Local communities had traditionally hunted for meat and to protect their crops and villages. Anti-poaching teams burst into villages, kicking over cooking pots and searching for meat. This hypocritical and insensitive approach created a deep hostility to conservation.

On the Botswana side there was a very different military leadership. Poaching was also rife in northern Botswana. Rhino was wiped out by the early ’80s. But General Ian Khama, who is now the country’s President, posted his troops throughout the nature reserves of the north. With conscripts (like Paul Moloseng – see our Guides) they patrolled wildlife areas. Anybody found poaching was to be treated as an insurgent, and shot on sight. Meanwhile the government leased concessions to tourism companies, like Wilderness Safaris, who in turn protected areas from poaching, and began projects to monitor and re-introduce wildlife.

CinW Bots 150x150 ECOT3From the mid-1980s wildlife populations began to recover in northern Botswana. Education programmes (like Children in the Wilderness – see posts) and income from the growing tourism industry gave human populations around the parks a positive view of conservation. 

Whilst Botswana took rapid strides forward, the Caprivi had all but lost its wildlife at independence in 1989. Local communities were hostile to conservation and human populations were growing rapidly. Small national parks were declared, but even today they lack fencing to protect wildlife from poachers. Animals on the Botswana side would not cross the rivers, wise to the danger on the northern banks. A great deal of effort has gone into trying to change community attitudes in Namibia. By law, lodges must pay communities directly for concessions and, in 30 years, hand them over to the community. This has worked in some areas of Namibia like !Doros Nawas, but not in the Caprivi. It is catch-22. For tourism operators the region is unattractive – working with communities is slow and very difficult. Meanwhile, there is little wildlife to attract tourists. As for the communities, the income from ecotourism is small and they remain suspicious of conservation. Why allow elephants to trample your crops or have lions near your village for almost no return? 

I think the moral of the tale is about timing and approach.

Botswana declared huge parks at independence in the 1960s. Human populations in the north were still very small; and these communities were moved out of the parks. This was done by law, but in a humane way – the President (Seretse Khama), personally led negotiations with communities. Then, in the 1980s, they enforced anti-poaching with the greatest vigour, and at the same time encouraged private tourism by granting exclusive concessions. By contrast Namibia inherited a mess at its independence in 1989. Human populations in the Caprivi had grown, and could not be re-allocated to create large reserves. Community hostility toward wildlife ran deep. Through ‘community owned concessions’ Namibia is trying to change attitudes and create income for communities… but from what we saw, this approach seems to be a very long way from transforming the Caprivi into a region that can begin to rival the great reserves of Botswana, just across the rivers.

However, hope for the Caprivi is growing. ‘KAZA’, a ‘megapark’, linking reserves across southern Africa into one continuous wildlife reserve the size of Italy, has now been agreed. This trans-frontier park will surround the Caprivi on all sides, and corridors are planned across the Caprivi, to facilitate the safe passage of wildlife, especially the migration of elephants. The success of these corridors – their perceived economic benefits and the safety of wildlife – may yet spur on ecotourism across the Caprivi. 

For more information on KAZA see See also Zeke Davidson’s profile for more on wildlife / human conflict.

Rio Urban Forest Planted by Hand

rio view corcovado 150x150 ECOT3From the time that Rio de Janeiro was established in 1565 to the mid-19th century, its numerous hillsides, once lush with tropical forests, had been cleared of vegetation for timber and fuel to help grow the burgeoning city. Eventually, nearly all of Rio’s hillsides would be stripped bare forests as coffee and sugarcane plantations took their place. Between 1590 and 1797, for example, the number of cane mills jumped from six to 120 — at the expense of the city’s Atlantic rainforest.

But for all the benefits garnered from deforesting the hillsides in those early days, the destruction was a cause for concern even then. As early as 1658, residents of Rio began to rise in defense of the forests, fearing that the degraded land was impacting the city’s water supply. Still, it wasn’t until 1817 that the city government first issued regulations to protect the few remaining patches of forest.

After a series of droughts in the mid-19th century, it became clear that the forest needed to be revitalized to ensure a clean supply of water. So, in 1860, Emperor Pedro II issued an order to reforest the barren hills of Rio with the native plants that flourished there centuries earlier.

The massive undertaking saw hundreds of thousands of seedlings planted by hand; natural regeneration and municipal regulation helped fill in the rest. Efforts were also made to reintroduce native fauna, thought the forest’s tumultuous 400 year history has yet to recover all of its natural biodiversity. Over the next few decades, the Tijuca Forest gained National Forest status, receiving with it numerous protections and expansions to its boundaries.


10 Energy Saving Tips for Travelers Courtesy of International Ecotourism Society

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With summer vacations in full swing, travelling without the guilt is a plus.

Why not start with 10 Energy Saving Tips for Travelers courtesy of International Ecotourism Society.

1. Fly Wisely:
Air travel is often the most energy consuming aspect of your travel. Plan your trip so that you minimize air travel, and choose, whenever possible, to stay longer in a destination instead of making many short trips.

2. Travel Light:
Pack only what you need, and don’t bring things that will become waste. By reducing the weight of luggage travelers can significantly cut green house gas emissions.

3. Book Responsibly:
When choosing your hotel, tour operator, or other service providers, select ones that have good sustainability practices. Look for information on the company’s environmental initiatives; strategies, save energy and minimize waste; involvement in sustainable tourism certification program. A good place to start your search is Ecotourism Explorer.

4. Before You Leave:
Turn off lights and unplug household appliances that can be left unplugged while you are away.

5. While You Are There:
Turn off all the lights and air conditioner/heater when you leave your room, and unplug unnecessary appliances.

6. Greener Way To Get Around:
Utilize public transportation (bus, train, city car, etc.) and alternative modes of transportation (walking, bicycle, non-motorized vehicles, horse, camel) as much as possible. It’s a more sustainable way to get around, and also a healthier and more enjoyable way to get to know the place you are visiting.

7. Eat Local:
Reduce your ‘food miles’ by choosing local. Visit a local farmer’s market, shop at a locally owned grocery store and choose locally owned restaurants that buy local. Locally produced foods are a tastier and more sustainable option.

8. Save Water:
Use the minimum amount of water needed for a shower/bath, don’t let water run while shaving, brushing or washing, and check if the hotel has a linen reuse program – if so, reuse your towels and bed sheets by placing the card to indicate you don’t wish to have them washed every day, if not, request hospitality staff not to change them every day.

9. Charge Your Trip Sustainably:
Whenever possible, utilize options that do not require batteries. Buy rechargeable batteries for your essential travel items such as cameras, razors, and flash lights.

10. Offset the Unavoidable Footprint:
Contribute to a credible carbon offsetting


Top Green City Hosts Ecotourism Icon

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Gap Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip will share his intriguing and visionary insights on ecotourism and sustainability trends when he takes to the stage at the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference 2010 (ESTC), in Portland, Oregon, between September 8 and 10.
The conference – co-sponsored by Gap Adventures and the non-profit Planeterra Foundation – is North America’s largest and only conference focusing on sustainability in the tourism industry and will assemble more than 500 business leaders, tourism professionals and community stakeholders to discuss practical ideas and solutions to sustainability challenges facing the sector today. The conference’s ultimate goal: reinforcing the role of tourism in building a more sustainable future for the travel industry.

“We love changing people’s lives through travel and I believe ESTC is a perfect forum to help us advance that goal,” Poon Tip, the conference’s keynote speaker, said. “We’ve proven time and again through initiatives like our voluntourism projects that sustainability and travel needn’t be mutually exclusive. Smart travel that respects local ecosystems, economies and communities not only provides a more exciting experience for our travellers, it’s simply the right thing to do.”

For the first time, ESTC will also be joining forces with the Planeterra Foundation to provide opportunities for conference delegates to roll up their sleeves for the local community. Delegates will have a chance to volunteer at Portland-area landmarks such as the Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge and the Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center, in an effort to highlight the increasing importance and relevance of voluntourism.

“These practical sessions in the field will give delegates an opportunity to participate in a hands-on voluntourism experience and gain an understanding of how giving back to the people and places they visit provides a richer traveller experience.” said Planeterra director Richard G. Edwards.



Rick Ridgway

Ecotourism Conference Keynote Speaker Rick Ridgeway to Address Climate Change and Wildlife

ridgeway ECOT3Sustainable Tourism Conference Portland, Oregon, USA
September 8-10, 2010

Rick Ridgeway is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, author, photographer and environmentalist. Ridgeway has achieved many adventures in his life including being a member of the first American team to summit K2. His international reputation as one of the world’s foremost mountaineers and adventurers prompted Rolling Stone magazine to call him “the real Indiana Jones.” Ridgeway has also been honored with National Geographic’s “Lifetime Achievement in Adventure” award. Rick Ridgeway, Board Chairman of Freedom to Roam Coalition, and Vice President of Environmental Initiatives and Special Media Projects for Patagonia, Inc.

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