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Friday, July 13, 2012

Tourism facilities near wildlife habitats to pay 10% of revenue soon

Nitin Sethi, TNN | Jul 13, 2012, 04.55AM IST Tourists stand on a jeep as they watching a tiger inside the Bandhavgarh national park. All tourism operations running in core areas of tiger reserves and other critical wildlife habitats will be phased out in five years. Tourism will also not be allowed in any core area of a tiger reserve, where forest dwellers have been relocated. NEW DELHI: All tourist operations within 5km of all 600 plus tiger reserves, national parks, sanctuaries and wildlife corridors in the country will soon have to fork out a minimum of 10% of their turnover as " local conservation fee", which will be used not only to protect wildlife areas but also provide financial assistance to communities and people living around these green patches. The Union environment and forests ministry has cleared ecotourism guidelines containing these provisions and submitted them to the Supreme Court in an ongoing case. All tourism operations running in core areas of tiger reserves and other critical wildlife habitats will also be phased out in five years. Tourism will also not be allowed in any core area of a tiger reserve, where forest dwellers have been relocated. The oustees will get priority in running tourism operations in these tiger reserves, the guidelines state. Now, the norms will be looked at by the apex court before which several tour operators have pleaded that they be allowed to run their operations in the breeding grounds of tigers demarcated as core zones under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. No green fee on home stay facilities run by locals The tiger-tourism business has been in the eye of the storm for earning crores out of 'public property' secured by ousting poor forest dwellers from the wildlife zones and in lieu ploughing back little. Some high-end hotels, located in and around tiger reserves, earn upwards of Rs 40,000 a room per night for providing the 'wild experience'. Questions have also been raised about conservationists running tourism operations adjacent to these parks and making a tidy profit, thanks to their domain expertise and access to these secure zones even as tribals and others are relocated for disturbing tranquility in these pristine areas. The green ministry had noted that the burgeoning high-end tourist facilities around these wildlife areas in recent years triggered exploitation, degradation, disturbance and misuse of fragile ecosystems, in turn ensuring "further alienation of local people". The norms were developed by a panel that included the member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority Rajesh Gopal and director general of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) Sunita Narain. However, the guidelines, accepted by the environment minister Jayanti Natarajan, suggest that small home-stay facilities run by local residents under approved ecotourism plans won't be required to share their revenues. The state governments would be required to set up local advisory committees that would oversee the implementation of state-level ecotourism strategy in each of the national parks and sanctuaries and monitor the tourist facilities within 5km of the wildlife areas for adhering to the norms. In the interim period of five years — even as tourism facilities are to be shifted out of the core areas of tiger reserves — the guidelines stipulate state governments to give special space to community-based tourism in certain parts. In large wildlife areas, which are over 500 square km, about 20% of its territory would be allowed to be used for community-based tourism. For smaller parks and sanctuaries, 10% of the area can be used for tourism for the interim five years. The pilgrimages inside national parks and sanctuaries too will be regulated, and the zones will remain open only on specific days — to be decided by an agreement between wildlife and temple authorities.

Ten tigers have died in six months, admits forest minister

Sandeep Ashar, TNN | Jul 13, 2012, 10.21AM IST MUMBAI: In a grim statistic, the state forest department on Thursday admitted that ten tigers have died in the past six months. Another tiger was reported to have suffered a serious injury. In a written reply to a query included in the starred questions list in the legislative council, forest minister Patangrao Kadam also admitted that deaths in at least "four" cases was due to poaching. The minister had submitted the reply in response to a query by NCP's Vijaysinh Mohite Patil on measures adopted for the safety of the big cats. Of the ten big cats, two were tiger cubs, the minister has informed. The state government, which has acknowledged the concern over the trend, has said that various steps including setting up of patrolling squads, reducing and regulating man-animal conflicts across tiger corridors, setting up chowkies at fixed distances and effective use of wireless sets for better communication in such areas have been taken up to reverse the trend. In response to a related question, Kadam also expressed concern over a rise in leopard deaths reported from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. In the past 30 months, fourteen leopards are believed to have died in the region. Kadam claimed the patrolling had been beefed up in the region.

HC rejects MPSEB plea on irrigation colony in Pench

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Jul 13, 2012, 12.37AM IST NAGPUR: The Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court on Tuesday dismissed a writ petition filed by the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board (MPSEB) seeking to quash an order to shift the irrigation colony in the Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR). Justices Vasanti Naik and AB Choudhari dismissed the writ petition filed by MPSEB for setting aside or modify observation of the judgement passed on April 22, 2002 in an earlier petition filed in 2001 against no action for shifting of colony be taken. The colony is situated over 15 hectares. Earlier, MPSEB had filed the petition to continue occupying the area notified as reserved forest under Indian Forest Act read with Wildlife Protection Act. In 2003, Justice J N Patel and Justice P S Brahme at the high court had held that the petitioners have no right to remain in the reserved forest area. Of the 101 quarters inside Pench, a few are occupied by MPSEB staff and water resources department (WRD) for maintenance work on the Pench Hydroelectric Power Project. The court had ordered all occupants to vacate the reserved forest land and enter only for purposes of maintenance. The petitioners had also filed special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court. But, after a few hearings, they withdrew it. On April 22, 2009 Justices Sharad Bobade and FM Reis had also observed that the order does not make any exception for any category of persons and all of them have been directed to vacate the reserved forest land. They issued show cause notices to the superintending engineer, Pench project and chief engineer of MPSEB why action for breach of judgement of April 22, 2002 should not be initiated against them. During the contempt proceedings, MP Badar, special counsel for the forest department, submitted that the present writ petition is liable to be dismissed. Ashutosh Dharmadhikari appeared for MPSEB and Badar appeared for the forest department. There is an interstate agreement between Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra on the Pench Hydroelectric Power Project that water will be shared by the state and power by MP. Hence, the expenses to shift both the colonies have to be borne by the WRD. The WRD is ready to give 0.81 hectare land to develop 79 quarters for MPSEB staff. Of this area, 0.40 hectare is vacant while rest is occupied by old buildings of the department, which are required to be dismantled. The too had agreed that the land offered is sufficient for 79 quarters.

Bandu Dhotre ends fast, wins battle for tigers

STAFF REPORTER Wildlife activist Bandu Dhotre on Wednesday evening ended his hunger strike that he began on July 2, demanding effective steps for protection of tigers in the Vidarbha region, after the Maharashtra government agreed to accept almost all his demands. “The government has accepted almost all the demands put forward by us. Only the merger of the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra [FDCM] with territorial forests could not be fulfilled due to some technical reasons,” Mr. Dhotre told The Hindu. “But the government is going to come up with a comprehensive wildlife management plan for the FDCM in the next eight days. We hope tiger protection in this area will get a boost,” he said. “Chandrapur will be declared as a ‘tiger district’ and tigers in the non- protected areas will also be protected on the lines of protected areas,” said Swanand Soni, who participated in the negotiations with the government. Forest Minister Patangrao Kadam had called a meeting in Mumbai on Tuesday to discuss Mr. Dhotre’s demands. Five Ministers from Vidarbha — Anil Deshmukh, Rajendra Mulak, Nitin Raut, Sanjay Deotale and Shivajirao Moghe — participated in the talks. Swanand Soni, Shyam Pandharipandhhe and Dhirendra Malakalkar represented Mr. Dhotre in the meeting.