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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

NTCA's ecotourism guidelines challenged

By Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Dec 19, 2012, 03.47 AM IST Supreme Court lifts ban on tiger tourismSariska set to get three more tigersForest department seeks 1.25cr for buffer zone in PilibhitVED intervenes in tourism ban pleaTourism sector awaiting SC verdict as wildlife sanctuaries reopen on... NAGPUR: The Pench Jungle Lodges Federation has challenged the fresh comprehensive ecotourism guidelines issued by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a statutory body under the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF). The guidelines were notified on October 15, in the backdrop of Supreme Court hearing on a petition demanding ban on tourism in core areas of tiger reserves. The Jabalpur high court on Friday issued notices to Central and Madhya Pradesh governments and NTCA asking them to file a reply. The petitioner federation has challenged the NTCA direction to the states to appoint local advisory committee (LAC) which would take a final call on tourism in tiger reserves. "NTCA has no powers to ask states to appoint LAC. What is the need for a LAC when there is already a steering committee under respective chief ministers and state forest ministers? Besides, there is also a panel for Tiger Conservation Foundations (TCFs)," asked petitioner's counsel Rahul Diwaker. The petition says that many of the representatives like block development officers (BDOs), subdivisional officers (SDOs) among others to be appointed to the committee are persons who have no knowledge about tourism and conservation. The federation has also challenged the park management's decision to cut carrying capacity of vehicles to Pench Tiger Reserve by 50%. Earlier, 130 tourist vehicles were allowed inside Pench from three gates. However, after the Supreme Court decision, the capacity has been cut to 65 vehicles. Similar steps have been taken in Bandhavgarh and Kanha tiger reserves. In Pench, the park management reduced the carrying capacity following NTCA guidelines prescribing tourism in 20% area only of the core of tiger reserves. "Pench has reduced tourism area from existing 36% to 20% and reduced the length of routes from 145km to 112km. Hence, the number of vehicles was also halved," said Pench officials. The petitioner federation says the carrying capacity of vehicles was calculated on the basis of breeding of wild animals and impractical reasons. There is no scientific evidence to prove that tourist vehicles affect breeding of animals, the petition said. The petition has also challenged move to charge conservation fee of Rs500 to Rs3,000 per room per month from resorts. "The resort owners are already paying 35% taxes towards food licence, lease, pollution control, etc. Why the fresh tax?" says the petitioner. The NTCA guidelines have also stated that tourism needs to be phased out from core to buffer. However, this is impossible without developing the buffer zones. "First develop the buffer and then only curtail tourism in the core," said Diwaker. The matter is slated to be heard in January 2013.

Cameras at Katarniaghat capture seven big cats

TNN Dec 18, 2012, 03.11AM IST state forest department|National Tiger Conservation Authority|Katarniaghat BAHRAICH: Almost a week into Phase-IV of monitoring big cats in the reserve, seven new tigers have been sighted in forest ranges in Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary and Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. As many as 168 pairs of camera traps have been put up and 42 additional pairs are expected to be purchased by the forest department soon. Each pair has been installed across an area of 4 sq km. This has made the monitoring process more intensive compared to the sample testing method in the preceding phase when 48 pairs of camera traps had been put to use. Shailesh Prasad the field director was jubilant over the new sightings trapped on camera in Motipur and Kharkhara Ranges under Katarniaghat wildlife sanctuary which falls in the buffer zones of the reserve where tiger presence was expected least, he said, expressing hope that the area has potential to breed a tiger population. The sighting was possible due to intensity of the monitoring process, he felt, adding that there might be six to eight more tigers within this 120 sq km stretch. Sharing his optimism, sources in National Tiger Conservation Authority pointed out that the results of Phase-IV monitoring across the country would certainly be encouraging. In the third phase, limited camera traps were deployed and estimation done on the basis of results obtained from sample areas. Further, since the exercise is an annual feature, a regular tab can be maintained on status of the big cat population and there will certainly be no Sariska-like situation in future, where all tigers have been poached. The State forest department is monitoring in association with WWF. "The entire 2,108 sq km of buffer and core can be covered more intensively. It is believed that at least 70% to 80% of the big cats present would cross the camera traps in 45 days of the monitoring period," said Prasad. As per the earlier estimate, presence of about 109 tigers was projected in Dudhwa. But the latest figures could vary between 140-150 tigers, said Prasad. Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary is a part of the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, and is located in Uttar Pradesh near the Indo-Nepal border, in the Terai area of Bahraich district. It covers an area of 400 km and was established in 1976. The sanctuary is now being managed along with the Dudhwa National Park and Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary, as part of the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger of the Government of India. The Katerniaghat Forests provide strategic connectivity between tiger habitats of Dudhwa and Kishanpur in India and the Bardia National Park in Nepal. Its fragile Terai ecosystem comprises a mesmerising mosaic of sal and teak forests, lush grasslands, steaming swamps and wetlands. it is unique for the number of endangered and critically endangered species, which occur here and include the gharial, tiger, rhinocerous, Gangetic dolphin, swamp deer, Hispid hare, Bengal florican, the white-backed and long-billed vultures.