Tourism board move faces ire

A move by the Madhya Pradesh Ecotourism Development Board to open up the forest resthouses located in remote forested areas to tourists from November 1 onwards coinciding with the state’s Foundation Day has come under severe criticism from foresters who assert that this initiative would be detrimental to ecology, biodiversity and the long-term objective of forest protection and wildlife conservation.
The Madhya Pradesh Ecotourism Development Board has entered into an arrangement with the state forest department to offer boarding and lodging facilities in forest rest houses and organise conducted tours in inaccessible forest areas for tourists through advance bookings. This facility would also be for available to the general tourists through online booking.
When asked to give his views on this new initiative, a senior state forest department officer said on condition of anonymity that the forest resthouses were built to provide shelter and temporary resting space to the forest officers on inspection and study tours in the interior areas. Some of these are more than hundred years old and have been maintained by the forest department to support forest management and conservation activities.
He said that commercialisation of these facilities would leave an adverse impact when it comes to meeting the forestry goals.
These rest houses are not proprietary rights of the Ecotourism Development Board, another forest officer pointed out.
Even forest department is not allowed to sublet its property under this act, he emphasised, adding the subordinate service of the forest department and the range officers would now be spending more time towards managing these rest houses rather than on forest management activities.
A large number of foresters were also unanimous in pointing out that tourism in forested areas would lead to unnecessary exposure of local tribal communities to outside people. The resultant liaison would have dangerous dimensions and could lead to poaching in and around protected areas as they could become an easy conduit to poachers. They also cautioned against the possibility of high occurrence of forest fires in the interior-most areas.

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