Karela Fry

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Tiger tourism

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Hardnews reports on the state of conservation today:

Several reports in the past have indicted tourism as one of the fastest growing human activities to impact on the tiger habitat across the country. Hotels and resorts are blocking crucial corridors that connect one source population of tigers to the others, facilitating movement across patches of forest. A Ministry of Tourism report (2010) reveals how more than 102 resorts near the Corbett National Park threaten the very survival of tigers as well as other animals and birds. Most of these resorts brazenly flout all environmental rules, and pose a deadly threat to all life forms.

Wildlife experts in Madhya Pradesh (MP) recite the same story of mindless infrastructure coming up near Kanha and Pench tiger reserves. Jyotirmay Jena of World Wildlife Fund-India says, “These resorts are blocking crucial corridors and creating hindrances for animal dispersal, confining the wild animals in island-like habitats that remain isolated from other populations. If these resorts keep coming up at this rate, then all our efforts to save the corridors would go waste.”

Recently, the Supreme Court served a notice to National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the MP government on why tourism shouldn’t be banned in core areas and critical tiger habitats. This was the result of a special leave petition filed by Advocate Gaurav Agrawal on behalf of Ajay Dubey. Dubey works with Prayatna, a Bhopal-based NGO, and had filed the petition against an interim order of Jabalpur High Court that rejected his request for banning commercial tourism in core and critical areas of tiger reserves. “The matter is sub judice and I would not like to comment on it. However, the need to develop a sensible, eco-friendly model of tourism is what we are now stressing,” says Rajesh Gopal, Member Secretary, NTCA.

Gopal informs that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has also posted some guidelines on tourism in and around protected areas (PAs) on its website, and invited suggestions for the same. In his foreword to the draft, the then environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, mentions that it is for the first time any detailed guidelines have been issued, and that too after much debate and consultation with wildlife experts and tourism practitioners. He writes, “Ecotourism is tourism that is compatible with these fragile landscapes, while providing enhanced livelihoods to local communities… These guidelines have long been overdue, and are part of the key recommendations of the Tiger Task Force Report (2005), as well as the 2006 amendment of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.”

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