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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Forest department plans to ban private vehicles inside Anamalai reserve

By K A Shaji, TNN | Dec 4, 2012, 05.58 AM IST COIMBATORE: Major changes are in store at the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) with the forest department deciding to restrict the movement of private vehicles beyond Sethumadai, the gateway to the reserve in the foothills of the Western Ghats. Visitors will have to cover the 28-km forest stretch from Sethumadai to Topslip, which passes through the core area of the reserve, on vehicles provided by the forest department. A small fee will be charged from visitors who avail of the 'guided tour' which will also cover tourist spots in and around Topslip, officials said. Private vehicles travelling to Parambikulam tiger reserve in Kerala alone will be allowed to go beyond Sethumadai. Exemption has been made for these vehicles since the Parambikulam reserve can be accessed only through the road that passes through ATR. These vehicles, however, will be closely monitored. At present, tourists travel to both Anamalai and Parambikulam reserves in their own vehicles. Once the regulated tourism comes up in ATR, only forest department vehicles and two government buses from Pollachi and Palakkad to Parambikulam will be allowed run on the road that passes through tiger country. A large parking lot is expected to be constructed in Sethumadai which borders Ulanthy forest range to accommodate tourist vehicles. "It is advantageous for both department and the visitors. Tourists can enjoy the facilities in a better way under the guided tourism and we can have effective monitoring. Almost all the major tiger reserves are practicing it successfully,'' said a senior official of the ATR. In Topslip, tourists can avail of a 17-km vehicle safari conducted by the forest department. Bookings can be made on the spot at Topslip and advance bookings can be made at the forest office in Pollachi. Three trekking routes have also been resumed at Pandaravara, Manampally and Aliyar. In Topslip, two dormitories with 30 beds are available. In the case of Monkey Falls on Valparai road, the department is planning steps to ease vehicle congestion. Private vehicles would be stopped at a parking lot near Aliyar dam and tourists would be taken in forest department vehicles to the famous waterfall. Also the department plans to have guided tourism in some parts of Valparai, including in Kadamparai Arch, Sholayar Dam, Upper Aliyar Dam, Grass Hills, Attakatti and Varayadu Hills. Though Valparai receives hundreds of visitors every month, only Chinna Kallar and Nallamudi viewpoint are accessible for tourists in Valparai. Now plans are also on to allow tourists to visit Meenparai and Number 10 Parai in Manompally forest range. The proposals of the forest department need to be cleared by the government, which officials expect in a month. The Supreme Court approved 'Normative Standards for Tourism Activities and Project Tiger Guidelines, 2012,' talks about stringent regulations for tourism within the tiger reserves even while allowing "ecologically sustainable and nature-friendly tourism" in 20% of the core areas. The guidelines also warn against allowing "mass tourism" in tiger reserves and calls for tourist activities that will ensure "sustainable, equitable and community-based effort which will improve the living standards of local, host communities living on the fringes of tiger reserves".

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