Geoparks promote economic  well-being of the  citizenry

09Feb 2019
The Guardian
Geoparks promote economic  well-being of the  citizenry

A geopark is a UNESCO-designated area containing one or more sites of particular geological importance, intended to conserve the geological heritage and promote public awareness of it, typically through tourism. In other words, a geopark is a unified area that advances the protection and use of-

geological heritage in a sustainable way, and promotes the economic well-being of the people who live there  There are global geoparks and national geoparks. 

A UNESCO definition of global geopark is a unified area with a geological heritage of international significance.  Geoparks use that heritage to promote awareness of key issues facing society in the context of our dynamic planet. Many geoparks promote awareness of geological hazards, including volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis and many help prepare disaster mitigation strategies with local communities.

Geoparks embody records of past climate changes and are indicators of current climate changes as well as demonstrating a "best practice" approach to using renewable energy and employing the best standards of "green tourism". Tourism industry promotion in geoparks, as a geographically sustainable and applicable tourism model, aims to sustain, and even enhance, the geographical character of a place. 

Geoparks also inform about the sustainable use and need for natural resources, whether they are mined, quarried or harnessed from the surrounding environment while at the same time promoting respect for the environment and the integrity of the landscape. Geoparks are not a legislative designation though the key heritage sites within a geopark are often protected under local, regional or national legislation.  

The multidisciplinary nature of the concept of geopark and tourism promotion in geoparks differentiates itself from other models of sustainable tourism. In fact, sustainable tourism promotion within geoparks encompasses many of the features of sustainable tourism including geo-tourism (geo-site tourism: as a basic factor), community-based tourism and integrated rural tourism (as a vital need), ecotourism, and cultural heritage tourism.

Tanzania, a country with the biggest number of national parks in the world, is also about to become the first African state south of the Sahara to establish a maiden geopark.

The first ever ‘geopark’ in both the country and the sub- Saharan African region, whose initial establishment process has started, is going to be mapped across four districts in Arusha Region within the northern tourism circuit. 

Known as the Lengai-Ngorongoro geo-park, the project will encompass Karatu, Monduli, Longido and Ngorongoro Districts.The hot and puffing, active volcano and Tanzania’s third highest peak, Oldoinyo L’engai which translates to 'the Mountain of God' in the Maasai language - is a site of frequent volcanic activity including major eruptions, some resulting in drastic effects.

The first ever sub-Saharan geopark project, initiated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) is being coordinated by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), involving district officials and community leaders.

So far there is only one geopark on the African continent and this is found further North in Morocco. But for the south of Sahara region, the proposed one in northern Tanzania is going to be the first.

THE government has committed itself to boost tourism as it affirmed the resolve to double the number of visitors to 2 million in 2020. Recently government said that the number of foreign tourists dropped last year. Tourist arrivals fell from 1,140,156 in 2014 to 1,102,169 last year. Tourism provides 600,000 direct jobs and over one million other people earn their livelihoods from the industry. 

The industry, which accounts for 14 per cent of the country's gross domestic product, centres on wildlife and historical sites. Once UNECSO endorses Tanzania, the country will automatically join the Global Geo Park Network, which is a list of countries that seek the promotion and conservation of the planet Earth’s geological heritage, and encourage sustainable research and development by concerned communities.

In November 2015, the 195 member states of UNESCO ratified the creation of a new label - the UNESCO Global Geoparks - during the organisation’s 38th general conference.

This expresses governmental recognition of the importance of managing outstanding geological sites and landscapes in a holistic manner.At present, there are 119 UNESCO Global Geo Parks in 33 countries 


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