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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hartal in Valparai to press for exemption from buffer zone of tiger reserve

TNN | Sep 4, 2012, 03.55AM IST COIMBATORE: The dawn-to-dusk hartal called by different trade unions led by INTUC and HMS and supported by the trading community and tourism operators in Valparai on Monday was total. The hartal was observed to press for the exemption of the tea country from both core and buffer areas of Anamalai Tiger Reserve. Though the ruling AIADMK and its affiliated trade unions along with left parties kept away from the protest, over 20,000 plantation workers participated, paralyzing the functioning of tea estates. All shops in town remained closed while home stay facilities also downed their shutters. Autos and taxis also kept off the roads. The protest was organized in the background of Tamil Nadu's submission of an affidavit in the Supreme Court earmarking both buffer and core areas of tiger reserves. Valparai is out of the core area but workers are demanding exclusion from the buffer areas as well. Municipal chair person Sathyavanimuthu led a public meeting at Anna Thidal listing out the possible adverse effects of declaring Valapari a buffer zone. Meanwhile, tourist cottage owners and merchants in the plantation town will implead in the case being heard in the Supreme Court with regard to allowing tourism in tiger reserves. Representatives of the businesses have already left for New Delhi. They have also commissioned senior lawyers there to fight their case. Valparai is home to more than 40 home-stay businesses and 600 traders and thus, along with trade unions, they want to keep the town free from restrictions.. According to them, Valparai is the only municipality in the entire country to come under a tiger reserve, be it core area or buffer zone. What irks the tourism and commercial operators in the hill station is the lack of clarity on what kind of tourism would be permitted in a buffer zone. As per the 2001 census, Valparai has an urban population of 94,962 people and their normal life would be badly affected even if the whole municipality and adjoining tea estates are treated as buffer zones, according to the tourism industry. Before it became the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, the National Park had a 126-sq-km core area and 832 sq km buffer zone. Both the core area and the buffer zone had exempted Valparai municipality and surroundings. "The issue of Valparai is very peculiar. Other areas in the country which stand close to tiger reserves are not urban like Valparai. We have been here for generations and being in the buffer zone would mean serious trouble," says MJP Shaji from Merchants Association.

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