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Could a Birdwatching Festival Really Save this Himalayan Town?

All around the world, small communities are struggling to stay afloat as their young people grow up and move away for the allure of big cities. The villages in northern India are no different. But now, some of them have come up with a unique solution to harness the power of nature to save their way of life.

The villages around the Himalayan Binsar wildlife sanctuary are currently planning a first-of-its-kind birding festival to attract wildlife enthusiasts and bring excitement, jobs, and money back to the region. As old ways of life die out, locals have realized that leaning into nature tourism could be their “only option” to stop the brain drain. With any luck, the new push will revitalize the region and keep future generations from moving away, according to a recent article from The Guardian.

A passerine bird photographed in Binsar. Image by Prasad Dalvi/Getty

The Binsar Birding Festival, organized in collaboration with a sustainable travel company called Village Ways, will run through early April. It aims to attract both Indian and international tourists keen to witness the area’s “immense” birdlife up close. With birding growing in popularity across the world, especially as new studies reveal how good it is for your health, the festival could be the secret to reviving the Binsar region.

The festival promises to be a unique, comprehensive birding experience. Village Ways will be running a guided trip in conjunction with the festival, which involves hikes, talks, and documentaries about wildlife. There will also be a bird-spotting competition.

The Binsar wildlife sanctuary was established in 1988 to mitigate the impact of the logging industry, The Guardian reported. Today, it’s home to a vast sampling of India’s unique wildlife. More than 200 species of birds thrive there, including eagles, parakeets, woodpeckers, and the giant Himalayan vulture. The sanctuary is also home to monkeys, goats, martens, and leopards.

Himalayan vulture. Image by Artush/Getty

While it remains to be seen whether a birding festival is the answer Binsar is looking for, tourism is a viable economic solution for many similar communities around the world. In 2019—the last “normal” tourism year on record—more than 10 percent of the world’s total GDP came from travel and tourism, according to Statista. And when travel dollars are spent on sustainable, nature-focused trips, that’s even better for local communities, says the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA). 

Interested in seeing Binsar’s birdlife firsthand but can’t make it in time for the festival? Lucky for you, the wildlife sanctuary is there—and happy to welcome visitors—all year-round.

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