Special Ecotourism
  Travel organisation

What is ecotourism ?

Ecotourism can be defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local communities". The responsibility of tourists themselves is stressed, and this means understanding, co-operating and eventually participating. Ecotourism is thus linked to outcomes such as:

Environmental and socio-cultural compatibility;
The creation of benefits for conservation projects and for local communities through the fairer distribution of incomes;
The creation of environmental awareness and the greater acceptance of nature conservation for viable and appropriate land use.

Tourism is one of the fastest-growing economic activities in developing countries, notably in mountainous areas. However, improper management of tourism can have heavy negative impacts. Therefore, Ecotourism stresses the involvement of local communities in the management of tourism and the distribution of benefits to the local population.

Ecotourism in the Eastern Pamirs

The Pamirs, like other mountain regions, are rich in traditional and minority cultures. They conserve an outstanding biodiversity of rare or endangered plant and animal species, as well as vast reserves of clean water resources. The great scenic beauty of the Pamirs, as well as the warm hospitality of the inhabitants, make the Pamirs a prime, but as yet largely undiscovered, tourist destination.

ACTED has been running the Pamir High Mountain Integrated Project (PHIP) since 1999, mainly funded by the Swiss Development Corporation. The main objective of the PHIP is to diversify the economy, which traditionally has been based on the breeding of livestock. The project includes components for credit and capacity-building, high mountain agriculture, the rehabilitation of social infrastructure, support for local handicrafts and for local culture, as well as support for the most vulnerable families.

The Development of Cultural and Ecotourism in the Eastern Pamirs is a component of the PHIP, funded within a UNESCO project for the promotion of community-based cultural and ecotourism in selected mountain areas of South and Central Asia. The focus is on poverty eradication, the reduction of rural-urban migration and the preservation of the cultural and natural heritage.

Today, ecotourism development in the Eastern Pamirs is just beginning. However, it has considerable potential, giving the region the opportunity to become a model for the sustainable management of its cultural and natural heritage through the combined efforts of local communities, authorities, donors and tourists.

In order to achieve such objectives, the Murghab EcoTourism Association (META) is providing community-based ecotourism services to visitors. Your visit is a factor in the economic development of this region and can contribute to conservation and the appropriate use of cultural and natural resources.

The members of the EcoTourism Association therefore ask you to please bear the following in mind:

1. Be aware of your actions and appearance and how these might be perceived by your hosts.
2. Please respect the culture of the Pamiri people, including their traditions, customs, religion, language, traditional events, holy places, and cultural and historical sites.
3. Learn about the customs of your host community. Follow their guidelines, and when in doubt ask your guide.
4. Choose services provided by community-based ecotourism development projects.
5. You are probably wealthier than your hosts: don't flaunt your affluence.
6. Do not encourage begging. If you bring gifts, ask first which would be most appropriate and how these should be distributed.
7. Please respect the privacy of others. Seek understanding, but do not intrude.
8. Do not buy antique cultural items. Encourage local handicrafts.
9. Please be aware that nature in the Pamirs is vulnerable.
10. Avoid leaving tracks. Do not trample plants, or pick flowers or medicinal herbs.
11. Try not to disturb wildlife and habitats. Do not hunt.
12. Do not accept the skins, horns, meat, or other products from endangered species if you are offered them.
13. Do not leave rubbish behind. Collect and take away non-biodegradable garbage.
14. Do not pollute water sources or the air.
15. Bring your own fuel when trekking. Avoid the use of Teresken as a heating and cooking material.
16. Always follow marked tracks and roads.
17. Be aware of high altitudes. Take precautions, ascend slowly, don't overexert yourself, drink lots of fluids, avoid alcoholic drinks, and be aware of possible symptoms of altitude sickness.