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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

SC orders states to notify tiger reserve buffer zone in 3 months

TNN | Apr 4, 2012, 02.15AM IST NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the state governments to demarcate and notify buffer zone around each tiger reserves within three months, an order that would regulate commercialization of revenue land around these tiger habitats to help preserve the endangered species. A bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Dipak Misra passed this order after the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) informed that about 15 tiger reserves were yet to have the benefit of buffer zone to be notified by the state governments under the Wild Life (Protection) Act. The Act defines buffer zone as the area peripheral to the critical tiger habitat or core area providing supplementary habitat for dispersing tigers, besides offering scope for co-existence of human activity. The limits of the buffer/ peripheral areas are to be determined on the basis of scientific and objective criteria in consultation with the Gram Sabha and an Expert Committee constituted for the purpose. A petition by conservationist Ajay Dubey had demanded removal commercial tourism activities out of core or critical tiger habitat in the tiger reserves. The bench felt the purpose would be served by asking the states to compulsorily declare the "core" and "buffer" areas. Though many states had complied with the core area notification, the buffer zone notification was missing in key tiger reserves of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Bihar. Issuing notice to the defaulting states, the bench said, "We direct all concerned states to notify the buffer/peripheral area as required under the Act as expeditiously as possible and in all event within a period of three months." The erring tiger reserves included Ranthambore (Rajasthan), Panna (Madhya Pradesh), Sariska (Rajasthan), Dudhwa (Uttar Pradesh), Palamau (Jharkhand), Anamalai, Mudumalai and Kalakad-Mudanthurai (Tamil Nadu), Nagarhole (Karnataka), Sahyadri (Maharashtra), Valmiki (Bihar), and Pakke (Arunachal Pradesh). The Court noted that an expert committee of NTCA under the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) is expected to submit a report on framing of guidelines relating to eco-tourism in and around tiger reserves. The committee is expected to cover issues related to restrictions on tourism-related activities to be carried out in the buffer areas while keeping core tiger habitat "inviolate". NTCA's advocate Wasim A Quadri said the committee would submit a report by May 16. The matter was posted for hearing next on July 10. Welcoming the SC order, senior advocate Raj Panjwani, who was assisting as amicus curiae, said it would go a long way in protection and preservation of tiger reserves. By this order, the states were required to delineate the fringe/buffer area around the core zones of tiger reserves, and submit a tiger conservation plan as required under Section 38V of the Wild Life Protection Amendment Act, 2006, to ensure wildlife conservation while addressing the livelihood issues of local people. The buffer zone constituted of fringe areas of tiger reserve up to a radial distance of 10 km, which had in the past witnessed large scale construction of hotels, mass tourism, and night safaris - all disturbing the roaming of wild animals at night in search of corridors. The National Tiger Conservation Authority had said that the fringe areas had corridor value and their ecological sustainability was important to prevent the area from becoming ecological sinks on account of overuse of resources and unwise land use.

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