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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Supreme Court to decide fate of tourism in core area on March 13

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Mar 6, 2012, 04.52AM IST NAGPUR: The fate of tourism in core areas of tiger reserves will be finally decided by the Supreme Court on March 13. The case has got a new twist after one of the leading NGOs Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) intervening in the matter. On February 14, the double bench of Justice Dalbir Bhandhari and Justice Deepak Mishra heard the petition filed by Bhopal-based environment protection NGO Prayatna. "Our plea demanding ban on tourism in core areas of tiger reserves has raised positive hopes with WTI filing an intervene application," said Ajay Dubey, secretary of Prayatna. Meanwhile, an affidavit filed on behalf of Madhya Pradesh government by JS Chouhan, field director of Kanha Tiger Reserve, supports tourism in core areas. The affidavit submits that conservation is, primarily, to reduce competition between wildlife and human beings for the resources on which both are dependent. This is being achieved by relocating villages from the tiger habitats as well as by imposing restrictions on grazing, collection of fuel wood, minor forest produce (MFP) collection etc. by the people living close to these areas. The affidavit further states that wildlife tourism does not require exploitation of' resources (biomass) on which wildlife depends for its survival and propagation. Therefore, it cannot be kept in the same category as other human activities. "Wildlife tourism, if practiced sensitively and carefully, will have minimal impact on wildlife and its habitat. The state government has developed necessary safeguards to regulate tourism and minimise adverse impact on wildlife habitats," says the affidavit. On the contrary, in its reply to the Supreme Court, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has admitted that there should not be any kind of tourism in the core area, and if at all it is being carried out, it is illegal. Prayatna had filed a PIL in September 2010. "Tiger shows with the help of elephant in tiger reserves across Madhya Pradesh cannot be justified as sensible tourism," flayed Haseeb Badar, a wildlife lover. Now all eyes are on the Supreme Court verdict which will finally decide the petition on implementing ban on all kinds of tourism in core and critical tiger habitats (CTHs). The decision will have repercussions on all the parks in India. Tab on Tadoba tourists After severe violations by a section of tourists in Pandharpaoni area in Tadao-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) on February 29, the park management has imposed restrictions on tourists in the sensitive Pandharpaoni. Tourists are now not being allowed to stay for a long time at one spot. "We have banned entry to the driver of the gypsy that rushed towards the tiger sitting on the road. Besides, entry to vehicles jumping the road will be banned. We are identifying these vehicles," said assistant conservator of forests (ACF) Ajay Pillariseth. A staff vehicle is stationed at Pandharpaoni to keep a tab on rowdy tourists, he said.

Nagarhole Tiger Reserve smoulders, but who cares?

Joseph Hoover, IBNLive Specials Over 6000 acres of pristine forest cover has been reduced to ashes in four ranges of the hallowed Nagarhole Tiger Reserve. But there hardly seems to be a sense of remorse amongst senior wildlife officials in Karnataka. In fact, the Field Director – Project Tiger (Mr Hosmath) and Mr Vijay Ranjan Singh, Conservator of Forests (Nagarhole division) were gung-ho that they had convinced Karnataka forest Minister CP Yogeswar that fires were a common feature in summer. "It happens in every national park every summer. There is media attention here because Nagarhole is on the world tiger map," said Vijay Rangan Singh. After taking the media contingent through the ravaged, smouldering remains of what was once the domain of a tigress with three cubs, the forest minister went on to make one of the most ridiculous statements anyone associated with conservation would have liked to hear. "We will plant saplings and ensure that forest recovers in five years," said Mr Yogeswar, nonchallantly. Either the minister must be ignorant or he must have conveyed what he had been briefed by his senior forest officials. But he made a mockery of the post-fire PR exercise. The media had a laugh! Probably, the minister must have deemed it was as easy as forming townships, which he does for business in and around Bangalore city. "A house can be reconstructed or a whole town can be rebuilt after a major fire. But it will take 20 to 30 years for a forest to regain what it has lost in a fire. "As a former forest officer who had served in this reserve for 20 years, I strongly believe that the fire could have been contained, if the officials had taken preventive measures, been on the guard and reacted sooner than they did in this case," said former Range forest officer KM Chinnappa. D Raj Kumar, Director, Nature Conservation Foundation, felt the forest should be allowed to recover at its own time without intervention. "Nature has established several important aspects in the generation of forests. Humus plays a big role to help soil regain moisture and retain grass growth in the lower substrate. The forest cannot recover in five years as the minister thinks," said Raj Kumar. "As this is a national park any intrusion from outside will be in violation, more so in a tiger reserve. Let nature take its time to recover without human intervention," added Raj Kumar. While senior forest officials showed no signs of remorse, those working in the park were a disillusioned lot. "Had any other part of the park burnt to this extent, we would not have regretted. But Kunthur, Thayhole and Marappa blocks should not been destroyed. These blocks were teeming with wildlife. I wonder if the animals will return," lamented Kushalappa, a temporary driver who has been working in the Nagarhole range for the past 22 years. The staff and foot-soldiers of this once pristine tiger reserve are anguished. But the Field Director – Project Tiger, who is the custodian of all tiger reserves in Karnataka, has no regret whatsoever of the devastating fire. His only concern, as is that of his immediate boss (chief wildlife warden) is to continue in his post. You will not be wrong if you were to think that he is after tiger funds!