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Friday, October 19, 2012

States asked to favour low-impact ecotourism in tiger reserves

P. OPPILI B. ARAVIND KUMAR A tiger sighted along the Masinagudy-Theppakadu stretch of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. File photo National Tiger Conservation Authority wants State-level strategy to be notified within a year The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has asked the State governments to develop State-level legislation to favour a community driven, low-impact ecotourism in place of wildlife tourism to maintain the integrity and connectivity of Tiger reserves. In its ‘Guidelines for tourism in and around tiger reserves,’ the NTCA has categorically told the States that no new tourist infrastructure should be set up within the core/critical tiger habitat of the reserves in compliance with the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Supreme Court directives. It insists on the formation of a Local Advisory Committee (LAC) for each tiger reserve to review the tourism strategy, ensure site-specific norms on constructions, advise local and State governments and regularly monitor all tourist facilities as well as operators to ensure wildlife was not disturbed while taking visitors into the reserves. It has listed those who should be members of the LAC. The NTCA has also recommended the phasing out of permanent tourist facilities located inside core/critical tiger habitats which were being used for wildlife tourism within a time frame to be decided by the LAC. Strict plans ensuring low impact adherence by these facilities have to be developed and approved by the LAC to be strictly implemented. There should be no privately run facilities such as catering inside the core/critical tiger habitat where night stay is permitted and any existing facility has to be run by the Tiger Conservation Foundations, the NTCA has said. All the States have been asked to notify the State-level ecotourism strategy within a year from the date of notification of the guidelines by the NTCA/Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). Tamil Nadu received the NTCA guidelines early this week — a copy of which is with The Hindu. The guidelines say adequate provisions must be made to ensure that ecotourism was not being relegated to purely high-end tourism that excluded local communities. Conservation fee The State governments should develop a system to ensure that the gate collections from the tiger reserves were utilised by the management for specific conservation purposes and not to go as revenue to the State exchequer. Such a step would ensure that resources generated from tourism were earmarked for conservation, local livelihood development, tackling man-animal conflict and welfare measures for field staff of the reserve. Besides, the State governments should charge a conservation fee from the tourism industry for eco-development and local community uplift. The Chief Wildlife Warden has to ensure that each tiger reserve prepares a tourism plan as part of the tiger conservation plan vis-à-vis the NTCA’s technical guidelines. The plan should include identification of corridor connectivity and important wildlife habitats and mechanisms to secure them. The guideline has also recommended the identification and monitoring of ecologically sensitive areas surrounding the tiger reserves to ensure the ecological integrity or corridor/buffer areas which will prevent encroachment.

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