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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Valmik Thapar denies conflict of interest in eco-tourism norms

Nitin Sethi, TNN | Sep 5, 2012, 03.19AM IST NEW DELHI: Valmik Thapar has denied any conflict of interest in raising questions on eco-tourism guidelines as a member of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), which is headed by the Prime Minister. Thapar, whose nephew Jaisal Singh runs a resort next to the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, stated this while responding to a mandatory requirement that calls for declaration of any conflict of interest before a meeting of the NBWL. The Board will meet on Wednesday. The eco-tourism guidelines had proposed a cess on the revenues of resorts in proximity to tiger reserves for funding wildlife conservation and local development besides other strict regulations that several tour operators and resort owners opposed forcing the government to do a rethink on it before the Supreme Court. In an ongoing case, the apex court had imposed a complete interim ban on tourism in the core of tiger reserves and in the last hearing asked the government to come back with its finalized guidelines. Under the NBWL rules, every member is required to inform whether s/he or any of h/his family members have any interest in a proposal submitted for discussions before the apex wildlife body. The NBWL has 15 non-government members like wildlife experts, ecologists and NGOs, besides senior government representatives from various ministries. Several other members have stated their possible conflict of interests with the proposals of the agenda. Thapar, who has raised the eco-tourism policy issue besides some others, has claimed that he has only raised 'policy issues' and has not put any proposal that favour or go against any entity. Thapar did not respond to e-mailed query on the issue or take phone call or reply to text messages sent by TOI. Thapar, who has been a vocal critique of the Supreme Court's interim ban on tourism operations in the core of tiger reserves as well as the environment ministry's guidelines, has in his response to the PM had said that beside the 'policy issues' neither he nor his family members have any interest in the proposals to be discussed in Wednesday's meeting.

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