MP’s plan for tourism in degraded forests suffers blow

  • Rahul Noronha, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
  • Updated: Mar 13, 2016 17:56 IST
Degraded forest land in Madhya Pradesh covers 36,074 sq kms. (Representative image)

The Union ministry of environment and forests doesn’t have any plan for high-end tourism in degraded forests, a blow to the Madhya Pradesh forest department’s proposal.

The state government has sought the ministry’s permission to allow private investors in forest to install cameras at water holes and artificially built tiger dens for live streaming and construct roads.

The United Nations Environment Programme says degraded forest is a secondary forest that has lost, through human activities, the structure, function, species composition or productivity normally associated with natural forest. A degraded forest delivers a reduced supply of goods and services from the given site and maintains only limited biological diversity.

Degraded forest land in Madhya Pradesh covers 36,074 sq kms, a little more than a tenth of the geographical area of the state that stands at 3,08,252 sq kms. The total forest area of the state stands at 95,411 sq kms.

To protect the forests and boost tourism, the state department in April last year held a convention of potential investors and claimed it had sent a concept note to the MoEF.

The Union ministry’s reply came in Lok Sabha when PP Chaudhry, an MP from Rajasthan, sought to know if there was a plan to allow private companies to use degraded forests for high-density tiger tourism.

He also asked if the government would require amending the wildlife protection act, 1972 to allow such activity.

“Certain top officials of the forest department were keen on bringing in the model even though it seemed difficult to execute right at the outset. Now that the MoEF has said it is not being considered, it has closed the matter,” said a forest department official refusing to be named.

The state’s concept note sent to the Union ministry said it would hand over 2000-5000 hectares of degraded forests to private investors to set up infrastructure and construct roads.

Once the habitat is developed, the government would translocate wildlife, including herbivores and tigers that would be attractions for visitors.

But the government will continue to own the land and the communities living close to the forests would enjoy the Forests Rights Act.

The private investor will have the right to fix fees that could be equal to tiger reserves entry fee or more for wildlife tourism and set up a lodge or resort on revenue land close by.

The MPEDB had also identified land in Bhopal district for launching the tourism model. The concept was based on the African private game park model.

What is degraded forest?

Degraded forest is a secondary forest that has lost the structure, function, species, composition or productivity, normally associated with natural forest, due to human activities

A degraded forest delivers a reduced supply of goods and services from the given site. It maintains only limited biological diversity

The total forest area of the state is 95,411 sq kms out of which degraded forest land covers 36,074 sq kms

The Madhya Pradesh forest department was planning to introduce high-end tourism in the degraded forests, but the plan has been scrapped by the Union ministry of environment and forests.

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