Experts express reservations

Serious reservations are being expressed by forest and wildlife experts about the Supreme Court’s directive on Tuesday that there should be no tourism activity in the core areas of the tiger reserves.

Responding to the order, renowned conservationist and editor of Sanctuary Asia Bittu Sahgal told this newspaper: “By banning tourism in the core areas, the eyes and ears of nongovernmental agencies have been walled out of forests where tree-cutting, illegal mining, road building, poaching and worse are rampant."

"While everyone waits for the text of the final ruling, clearly this is a case where the law has confused the current (negative) impact of tourism and the future potential of tourism for conservation," he added.

"Banning tourism because it is bad today is like banning cricket because there is gambling. The answer surely is to regulate tourism and make it difficult for builders and contractors to turn forests to cement."

When asked to give his reaction to the top court’s directive, advisor MP Ecotourism Development Board and former state chief wildlife warden H.S. Pabla said: “It seems the Supreme Court has not looked at the return filed by the Madhya Pradesh government in this case.”

In its return, the state government had illustrated how regulated tourism is good for the people — particularly the stakeholders, i.e. the local communities, Mr Pabla said, adding that conservation has to be with a purpose and it should ensure the welfare of the local population living in the periphery of the tiger reserves.

Regulated tourism has the potential of providing livelihood to a large section of the local communities that can extensively help in promoting conservation but if we end up excluding the people from the larger goal of conservation, it will not remain just a man-animal conflict but a one-sided battle for existence in which the animals are bound to lose.

The court’s order to ban tourism in the core areas of tiger reserves came during the course of the hearing of a PIL filed by activist Ajay Dubey.

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