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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ban on tourism in tiger reserves’ core areas goes

J. VENKATESAN The Hindu A file picture of ST 6, a male tiger at Sariska Tiger reserve in Rajasthan. The photo has been taken by Rajasthan Minister for Environment and Forests Bina Kak. PTI A file picture of B2, one of the most photographed tiger in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in MP. Strictly adhere to National Tourism Conservation Authority guidelines, says court The Supreme Court on Tuesday lifted the ban on tourist activities in core areas of tiger reserve forests. This follows Additional Solicitor-General Indira Jaising’s submission that on October 15 the government notified the revised guidelines for the 41 tiger reserves to be followed by States. A Bench of Justices A.K. Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar said: “This court passed an order on July 24 that till final guidelines are issued, core areas won’t be used for tourism. Now that the National Tourism Conservation Authority [NTCA] has notified the comprehensive guidelines under the Wildlife Act for tourism in and around tiger reserves, we modify the interim order and direct that henceforth tourism activities will be strictly in accordance with the guidelines.” The court said, “All concerned authorities will ensure that the guidelines shall be strictly in accordance with notification and requirements of guidelines are complied with before commencing tourism.” The Bench directed the States to prepare a tiger conservation plan within six months from today (Tuesday) and submit it to the NTCA. Fresh guidelines After the ban, several States and other stake holders urged the Centre to revisit the guidelines and sought the lifting of the ban. Accordingly, the Centre filed an application seeking modification of the order. Subsequently, the court asked the Centre to hold consultations with the States and others and come out with fresh guidelines. Accordingly, the NTCA formulated fresh guidelines. The Comprehensive Guidelines on Strategy, Tiger Conservation and Tourism in and around Tiger Reserves envisaged that 20 per cent of the core reserve area should be permitted for tourism. Shifting the focus from wildlife tourism to eco-tourism, the NTCA had recommended that a maximum of 20 per cent of the core/critical tiger habitat usage (not exceeding the present usage) for regulated, low-impact tourist visitation might be permitted by the court. It said, “In case the current usage exceeds 20 per cent, the Local Area Committee may decide on a time frame for bringing down the usage to 20 per cent. Such area may be demarcated as tourism zone and there should be strict adherence to site-specific carrying capacity.” Other suggestions are: “The States should enact law to regulate tiger tourism — tourist facilities; tour operators should not cause disturbance to animals; tourism infrastructure must be environment-friendly like usage of solar energy, waste recycling and rainwater harvesting etc; permanent tourist facilities located inside the core areas should be phased out in a time frame and 10 per cent of the revenue generated from pilgrim centres located in tiger reserves must be used for development of local communities.”

Despite ban, party organised at Corbett resort

Anupam Trivedi, Hindustan Times Dehradun, October 16, 2012 In a typical case of law enforcers joining hands with the law breakers, officials entrusted with the task to ensure blanket ban on noise pollution, within a 500-metre radius of Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR), allegedly partied at a resort near the reserve. Nainital district magistrate has sought a report from sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of Ramanagar, SS Jangpangi, who also heads the task force meant to ensure the ban. The SDM and a local police officer too were present at the said function, organised by a medical body at a resort last Saturday. The Uttarakhand high court had earlier this year issued directives that noise should not cross 50 decibels in the day time and 40 decibels after 10pm near the reserve. Several resorts have mushroomed in Dhikala, Marchula and other villages close to the tiger reserve. Over the years, activists alleged that high decibel of music played at resort parties was affecting the habitat of big cats and other animals. After the HC directive, Nainital district administration constituted a task force that includes the SDM and CTR officials. Reacting to the allegation the SDM said, "Is there any sin if I was present at the function? I was there to attend a seminar and after that I had left,". Meanwhile, Nainital district magistrate (DM) Nidhimani Tripathi has asked the officer to clarify and submit a report on the incident. "I have asked him to submit a complete report and a notice has also been served to the people, who organised the party at resort," said the DM.

Centre for rehabilitating tribals living near tiger reserves

PTI BL A fiel picture of a tiger at the Tadoba- Andhari Tiger Reserve. Photo: Paul Noronha. After laying down rules for regulating tourism in critical tiger habitats, the Centre has now suggested a rehabilitation programme for tribals living around them to save the endangered animal from traditional hunting. “There is an urgent need to launch a rehabilitation and development programme for denotified tribes and tribes involved in traditional hunting, living around tiger reserves and tiger corridors,” say the fresh guidelines on tiger conservation notified by the Centre. According to the Environment Ministry, the denotified tribes and communities like Behelias, Ambalgars, Badaks, Mongias, Bavariyas, Monglias, Pardhi, Boyas, Kaikads, Karwal Nat, Nirshikaris, Picharis, Valayaras, Yenadis, Chakma, Mizo, Bru, Solung and Nyishi are involved in traditional hunting of wild animals. “While this list is not exhaustive, around 5,000 such families are required to be taken up under a welfare programme (forming part of National Tiger Conservation Authority initiatives) during the (12th) Plan period,” it says. The Guideline underlines that the rehabilitation and welfare package should be evolved in a site specific, consultative manner with livelihood options. The livelihood options include wages for such people towards their deployment in foot patrolling for protecting wildlife, providing agricultural land with irrigation, basic health care, housing and related community welfare inputs and basic education facilities. Last week, the Supreme Court had allowed the Centre to notify within a week its fresh guidelines on tiger conservation and indicated that it may modify its July 24 order staying all tourism activities in the reserved areas across the country. A bench of justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar, had however, made it clear that the States, if aggrieved by the guidelines, are free to challenge it before the court.

Tour operators back to business

WEDNESDAY, 17 OCTOBER 2012 00:00 PIONEER NEWS SERVICE | NEW DELHI After notification of fresh guidelines by MoEF allowing “regulated low impact tourism” in the core and critical tiger habitat, the tiger tour operators could not have asked for a better opening of the present tourism season as the Supresme Court on Tuesday lifted its ban on wildlife tourism. “Following a period of ban and uncertainty, it is now time to get back to work to ensure that revenues that flow through park fees back into conservation and communities start flowing again, that livelihoods are restored, and legitimate businesses are allowed to continue to show India’s very best natural heritage to its citizens,” said Vishal Singh, Director Travel Operators For Tigers (ToFT). The ban according to him would have badly affected hundreds of thousands of local livelihoods, and legitimate businesses, both directly or indirectly. For a decade TOFT had involved local communities in various aspects of nature tourism that include evidence based science, park geography, ground reality, carry capacity and community and management issues, and drawing on the best of practices and experiences from around the world, pointed out the members. Pointing to the latest MoEF guidelines on eco-tourism, Chairman TOFT, Julian Matthews expressed concern saying “97 per cent of India’s remaining forest landscape, which today remains is virtually unprotected and unknown, and is increasingly devoid of wildlife, overgrazed and exploited”. Unfortunately, there is nothing in these guidelines that presents a legal ‘roadmap’ as to how they can be restored, restocked and revitalised. The members of TOFT, however, pointed out that this ban and the heated debates that it had generated since the past few months has helped to usher unity amongst the stakeholders — panchayat heads, Field Directors, park guides and lodge owners — to work together, and in far greater harmony, for the future.

HC asks UP govt to set up special tiger protection force

Press Trust of India / Lucknow October 16, 2012, 21:55 Uttar Pradesh government was today directed to constitute a special tiger protection force within two months to protect the big cats by the Allahabad High Court. The order was passed by the Lucknow bench of Acting Chief Justice Amitava Lala and Anil Kumar on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL ). The petitioner, Satish Kumar Mishra, had sought direction stern action against poachers and forest mafias in connection with death of three tigers within four days at Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in June last. The petitioner had also sought direction to constitute a special tiger protection force for the security of the big cats. On June 1 the court sought information from the Centre and the state government as well as director of Tiger Protection Authority as to why constitution of the force should not be considered. Additional Advocate General Bulbul Godiyal, who appeared before the bench on behalf of the state government, later said the the court was informed that a meeting was held on September 17 in which further course of action was decided in this regard.