Ban on tourism in tiger reserves’ core areas goes

Background

A century ago, India was home to about 45,000 tigers; in 2010 this number had been reduced to 1,706. In July, India’s Supreme Court banned all forms of tourism within the core areas of the country’s tiger parks in a bid to protect the tiger from extinction. This law, however, has been widely criticized due to it threatening not only the livelihood of the tiger population, but also those who earn their living from tiger tourism.

Ajay Dubey, who filed the petition to India’s Supreme Court, has claimed that he wants to see the 1972 Wildlife Protection Act properly enforced. This law states that every tiger reserve must contain a core area where only forestry officials can enter. Tourists are then only allowed to enter a buffer zone surrounding the reserve. Dubey claims that tiger tourism is negatively impacting the endangered species.

Ban removed

The Supreme Court lifted the ban on tourist activities in core areas of tiger reserve forests.

The court passed an order on July 24 that till final guidelines are issued, core areas won’t be used for tourism. Now the National Tourism Conservation Authority [NTCA] has notified the comprehensive guidelines under the Wildlife Act for tourism in and around tiger reserves.

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.

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.”

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.”

States asked to favour low-impact ecotourism in tiger

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has asked the State governments to develop State-level legislation to favour a community driven, low-impact ecotourism in place of wildlife tourism to maintain the integrity and connectivity of Tiger reserves.

In its ‘Guidelines for tourism in and around tiger reserves,’ the NTCA has categorically told the States that no new tourist infrastructure should be set up within the core/critical tiger habitat of the reserves in compliance with the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Supreme Court directives.

It insists on the formation of a Local Advisory Committee (LAC) for each tiger reserve to review the tourism strategy, ensure site-specific norms on constructions, advise local and State governments and regularly monitor all tourist facilities as well as operators to ensure wildlife was not disturbed while taking visitors into the reserves. It has listed those who should be members of the LAC.

The guideline has also recommended the identification and monitoring of ecologically sensitive areas surrounding the tiger reserves to ensure the ecological integrity or corridor/buffer areas which will prevent encroachment.

NTCA to create a national data base for tigers

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) will soon create a national data base for tigers, the flagship species of India, and each one of the big cats will have a unique identification number and code.

The UID will be one of the new initiatives of the NTCA taken up as part of better bio-monitoring of tigers.

Experts say this will not only help in enhanced monitoring but give the exact estimate of the tiger population in the country. Camera trap will be used to photograph the tigers from both sides to avoid variation in stripes and a UID allotted to each of them.

Another initiative being piloted in Corbett National Park is live electronic surveillance by providing cameras with video recording facility on towers that will help in tracking the movement of animals, human interference and checking poaching. “E-eye” project encompassing short range infra-red night vision and long range thermal camera stations, remotely operated cameras and wi-max devices, will enable sounding of alerts not only at the local park level but to the NTCA headquarters whenever there is destructive activity. This will apart from the Monitoring System for Tigers Intensive Patrolling and Ecological Status (MSTriPes), the software developed by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), to boost tiger conservation efforts through patrolling intensity and spatial coverage.

More tiger reserves to come up in India

National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has advised states to create seven more tiger reserves this would take the total number of tiger reserves in the country to 49. 

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