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Role of Tourism on Disaster Recovery: A case study of Uttarakhand, India

The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) is a tectonically active region, making it susceptible to natural and man-made hazards. The Himalayan state of Uttarakhand has a history of disasters that cause huge loss of life and property every year. Tourism plays an imperative role in the state's economy due to its natural resources and pilgrimage sites. To foster tourism, the Government of India proposed the Char-Dham National Highway project to connect the four major pilgrimage sites with other tourist destinations. However, development projects related to tourism, such as road construction, blasting, muck disposal, mining, deforestation, etc., may even increase the frequency of disasters. Hence, this study examines how tourism contributes to disaster impact and recovery.

An extensive field work at post disaster locations took place for this study from Feb2022 to July2022. Data collection in Himalayas is very challenging due to its weather, tracking routes, remote locations and lack of facilities. This survey was funded by CoPREPARE. A survey of 716 households was conducted in 32 villages in Uttarakhand where major disasters happened in the past decade. Using the Mann-Whitney Utest, differences between households on on-touristic and on off-touristic routes are highlighted. The findings revealed that people in both categories have suffered the same harsh effect of disasters, but their socioeconomic conditions are significantly different. Overall, disaster recovery in off-touristic route villages appears to be slower than in on-touristic route villages because of a lack of livelihood opportunities, alternative income sources, poverty, and a lack of disaster coping skills. A special recovery assistance is needed for off-touristic route villages as they are more vulnerable to hazards. Development projects related to tourism seem to facilitate disaster recovery, but still are connected with considerable disaster impacts. Thus, developing sustainable tourism solutions with resilient planning is an important step in improving disaster resilience of hill communities.