Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spurt in tiger sighting draws tourists to Sunderbans

TNN | Oct 31, 2012, 03.18AM IST KOLKATA: Tiger sightings at Pirkhali have suddenly led to a rush of tourists to Sunderbans. The mangrove forest, which witnesses a surge in the number of visitors during the Pujas in October, is grappling with the additional load which it wasn't ready to handle. The forest department expects the number of tourists to be around 40,000 more than last year and is considering ways to tackle the crowding and the pollution that it has been leading to. Two successive tiger sightings at Pirkhali on Saptami and Ashthami led to a cheer among tourists, most of whom return disappointed from Sunderbans where spotting a big cat is a rare occurrence. On Monday, yet another tiger was sighted near Dobanki. "The word seems to have spread quickly for we have been getting loads of tourists ever since. Everybody is keen to visit Pirkhali, though there hasn't been any sighting there since October 22. On Lakhsmi puja, some tourists encountered another tiger. We have been trying to tell tourists that tiger sighting is a matter of chance and that they must enjoy the trip around the mangrove forest, rather than just expect to see a tiger," said Subrat Mukherji, field director of Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (STR). Sightings go up during the October-December, the post-monsoon period. Even though they are far less than other forests, this is the time to visit Sunderbans in case you are keen on sighting a big cat, according to experts. "The post-monsoon period is usually the best for tiger sighting. Even though not very frequent, it should continue till November-end," said Pranabesh Sanyal, former director of STR. But what has left the STR authorities worried is the sudden crowding and the pollution. Scores of boats and launches have been sailing into the rivers that criss-cross the islands. While the mangrove forest receives around 80,000 tourists from October to January, this time the figure could touch 1,30,000, said officials. The number of tourists visiting the Sunderbans is around 1,50,000 a year. With tourist movement being restricted to the Sajnekhali-Pakhirala-Satjelia area, the pollution load could affect the forests, officials fear. "Tourists spend most of their time either sailing or roaming the fringes of the forests. They tend to litter these areas with plastic plates and bags. We have deployed additional forest guides this year to advise tourists on the dos and don'ts. Also, we are working on developing the areas which are not frequently visited. Places like Boney Camp and Kalash have accommodation and transportation facilities. Even though they are outside the STR area, they have a fair concentration of tigers and sightings are not rare," explained Mukherji. Tour operators said the tourism zone needs to be expanded at once to check pollution and crowding. "The tourist season witnesses a sudden concentration of visitors in a small area where tourists are allowed. It exceeds the carrying capacity of the forest. Emission from the boats, plastics and noise pollution are major problems. This year, it has been even worse due to the rise in the number of tourists. It's time to divert tourists to Boney Camp and Kalas which are pristine and have good facilities," said Asit Biswas, a tour operator. Plastics and noise pollution were a major threat to Sunderbans, according to Joydip Kundu, member, state wildlife board. "The forest department should immediately frame rules for controlled tourism. Pollution needs to be checked, especially during the peak season," said state wildlife advisory board member Joydip Kundu.

No comments:

Post a Comment