Search This Blog

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Court order halts tourism in 5 tiger reserves in Karnataka

KARNATAKA BUREAU The Supreme Court directive has been implemented in both Bandipur and Nagarahole National parks without distinguishing between core zone and buffer zone, according to B J Hosmath, Field Director, Project Tiger. File photo: M.A.Sriram Conservationists worried that this may stifle education- and conservation-related activities Following the Supreme Court ban, the Department of Forests has stopped all tourism activities in the core areas of tiger reserves in Bandipur, Nagarahole, Anshi-Dandeli, Biligiri Ranganathaswamy Temple (BRT) and Bhadra wildlife ranges. The department’s order is valid till August 22, when the matter will come up for further hearing in the Supreme Court. According to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden Deepak Sarmah, there will be no tourism activity in Bandipur range; Nagarahole, D.B. Kuppe and Antarsante ranges in the Nagarahole National Park; Lakkavalli and Muttodi in the Bhadra range; Punasoli and Kulgi in Anshi-Dandeli range, and K. Gudi in the BRT range. On Wednesday, orders were sent to all deputy conservators of forests and chief conservators of forest (Wildlife) of the five reserves. But tourism activity will continue in Bheemeshwari, Bannerghatta, Bhagavathi (Kudremukh), Daroji Bear Sanctuary, Dubare, and the blackbuck sanctuary in Bidar as these are not tiger reserves, a forest official said. IMPACT ON TOURISM The closure of these five key wildlife reserves for tourism activities will directly impact the sector. Anshi-Dandeli in Uttara Kannada district, Bandipur National Park, Nagarahole National Park, and Bhadra in Chikmagalur district together accounted for 1,34,293 tourists in 2011. Though this is a fraction of the total number of tourists visiting the State across various categories, the impact of the ban will be most felt by State-owned Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) Ltd. which runs resorts in Nagarahole, Bandipur, K. Gudi, Lakkavalli and Kulgi. The closure of these tourism hubs will lead to a 50 per cent loss in revenues, Managing Director, JLR, P. Anur Reddy told The Hindu. He said that 80 per cent of tourist traffic was in tiger reserves, and that 40 safari vehicles had stopped plying from Wednesday morning. JLR was earning Rs. 10 lakh annually from safari in tiger reserves, he added. Bookings cancelled B.J. Hosmath, Field Director, Project Tiger, told The Hindu that all bookings for the quarters of the Department of Forests had been cancelled. Mr. Hosmath pointed out that the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had identified the two national parks — together encompassing over 1,500 sq km — as “core critical tiger habitats” and hence the apex court directive had been implemented in both Bandipur and Nagarahole without distinguishing between core zone and buffer zone. Wildlife and conservation activists have welcomed the order. They, however, are worried that this may stifle education- and conservation-related activities in these ranges. Wildlife biologist K. Ullas Karanth welcomed the move. He, however, noted that one should not lose sight of non-commercial and educational values of nature tourism and public support they generate for conservation. In a press release, he added: “Certainly, all tourist residential facilities should be moved out of core habitats and critical corridors at the earliest. The economic power of tourism should be leveraged to create more habitat outside, not to overload existing tiger habitats, as all too often happens.” Praveen Bhargav, trustee, Wildlife First, Bangalore, said the attempt to crash land an African model of high intensity vehicle-borne tourism into our relatively small reserves had thankfully been stymied by the Supreme Court. However, this must not lead to stopping of education- and conservation-related activities that were very important to secure a future for tigers, he added. ‘No delineation’ Though the Supreme Court ban on tourism is restricted to core areas of tiger reserves, sources told The Hindu there was no delineation of core zone and buffer zone in both Bandipur and Nagarahole and the demarcation of “tourism zone” was done for convenience. Keywords: tiger reserves, department of forests, Biligiri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Bhadra wildlife ranges

Tourism banned in three tiger reserves

P. OPPILI B. ARAVIND KUMAR The Mudumalai Tiger Reserve near Ooty wearing a deserted look on Wednesday, following a ban on tourists' visit as per a Supreme Court order. Photo: Special Arrangement Following the Supreme Court order, State wildlife authorities on Wednesday, banned tourism in the three tiger reserves of Mudumalai in Udhagamandalam, Anamalai near Pollachi, and Kalakkad – Mundanthurai in Tirunelveli district. Officials in the forest headquarters said the field directors of the three tiger reserves have been asked to instruct the district forest officers concerned to stop allowing tourists till the apex court passes further judgement. Incidentally, the core tiger habitat in Mudumalai, which includes Theppakadu elephant camp, and Anamalai, where Top Slip is, are the core tourist spots thronged by several thousands of tourists every year. Senior forest officials concede that no distinction was earlier made between core areas and buffer areas in the reserves. The clearances of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has been obtained for Anamalai and Kalakkad – Mundanthurai, said an official, adding that the process of notification by the State government was definitely on. In Mudumalai and Anamalai, the relocation of original residents through ‘golden handshake’ was making a slow progress as the tribals could not be evicted without their wish, say forest officials. As the MoEF has given guidelines for eco sensitive zones (buffer areas), the forest officials, and in certain cases the district administrations would have tough time in the immediate future to allay the apprehensions of several thousands of settlers in areas like Sigur, Singara and Thengumarahada, adjoining the Mudumalai tiger reserve. According to an official of Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR), conservation efforts and habitat improvement programmes alone will go on in the tiger reserve, and tourism activities will not be permitted. (With inputs from V.S. Palaniappan in Coimbatore) N. Anand writes from Chennai: Tourists from Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in Theppakadu had to beat a hasty retreat on Wednesday as the guest houses belonging to Hotel Tamil Nadu and forest department were closed following the Supreme Court’s order. The tourists numbering about a dozen were unaware of the development until they reached the spot about 300 metres from Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Velayudham, Manager, Hotel Tamil Nadu, Theppakadu, said there about 15 rooms in the area that could accommodate easily 110 persons. The room occupancy in these places had been over 80 per cent throughout the year as it was the connecting point for three southern states namely Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Green brigade hails SC order on tiger reserves

Neha Shukla, TNN | Jul 26, 2012, 04.38AM IST LUCKNOW: The Supreme Court's interim ban on tourism activities in the core areas of tiger reserves has been hailed by the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF). The environment and forest minister Jayanthi Natarajan, while welcoming the SC order, said she will "personally write to all the chief ministers of the tiger states to follow the directives". The officials, neither in the Central ministry nor the state forest departments, though are guarded in their comments and term the order as "highly sensitive". A senior official in the Central ministry said, "Conservationists are extremely happy but private tour operators are very much disappointed." Following the SC order, entry of tourists will be banned in the protected areas of all 39 tiger reserves in the country. The final order will come on August 22. UP forest officials refused to comment till they see the order's copy. "So far we have only heard or read about the order, let's see it (order's copy) first," said a senior official. The ban will, however, not have an immediate impact on Dudhwa reserve as it is currently closed for tourism. Besides, Dudhwa is not a significant tiger reserve in terms of revenue collection. But, the ban's impact will be seen in the national parks like Bandipur, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Corbett, Ranthambore, Kaziranga and Kalakad-Mundanthurai, which earn huge revenue from tiger tourism. Though officials in the Madhya Pradesh forest department refused to comment on the repercussions of the order, they did not deny having a high tourist turnout during the season. The state earns close to Rs 15 crore by way of entry fee only. The entry fee, on an average, is not more than Rs 22 for the national parks. "Add to it the amount spent by a tourist to buy a tour package to the state's tiger reserves, the tourism earnings easily shoot up to Rs 150-200 crore," said a private tour operator. The state forest department not only uses the earning to manage the national parks but also shares it with the state. Karnataka and Rajasthan also earn considerable revenue through tiger tourism. The forest officials in Rajasthan forest department refused to comment on the ban. The private tour operators in wildlife reserves are mostly small time businessmen. The Travel Operators for Tiger in India, which is an association of private tour operators specialised in wildlife and eco-tourism, said there must be around 800 private tour operators in the country working for wildlife tourism. In most of the cases, tour operators are locals owning a lodge and running a food-joint. The ban on tourism in the core area will allow tourists to go till the buffer zone only. And since tiger sightings are rare in the buffer areas, the ban might dissuade tourists from visiting the national parks. The ban will not only hit the tour operators but also the local people as well who earn their livelihood from tourism. The bigger groups, however, will not be affected by the ban. "The only hope is if the state forest departments develop buffer zones to the level of core areas," said Vishal Singh, director, Travel Operators for Tiger in India. India is one of the most popular destinations for wildlife and eco-tourism in the world after Africa and South America. Foreign tourists also visit tiger reserves in India to see, apart from tigers, birds, swamp deer and other wildlife animals. India is the only country after Thailand and Siberia to have tigers, but from the point of view of tourism it scores over other countries. Tour operators say the states should replicate the model followed abroad wherein tourism revenue is used to conserve wildlife. It's a fact that biotic pressure on the national parks and forests in India is increasing, but model put in place by countries like Rwanda can be replicated. Rwanda allows tourism inside its forest area where tourists come to see Gorillas. The country allows a specific number of tourists inside the forest area and for a limited time. Besides, armed guards accompany tourists in the forests to prevent man-animal conflict. The country charges 750 US dollars per tourist for the visit. And despite restrictions, the number of tourists visiting forests has increased. The earnings are used for forest and wildlife conservation. India can adopt a similar model. The officers in MoEF, however, do not buy the argument. "The ban on tourism in the core area is nothing but a hype," said a senior officer. "The Supreme Court has only interpreted the law. It has enforced Section 38V of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which asks the states to ensure the inviolate status of the core/critical tiger habitat. The main objective of creating a tiger reserve is to conserve tigers, tourism is only a by-product," the officer added. Meanwhile, in the first major impact of the order, tour operators are preparing to make refunds to tourists who may cancel the bookings to the tiger reserves.