The Centre on Saturday asked Madhya Pradesh to immediately scrap its new scheme of allowing tourists to trek along with forests guards in national parks, citing threat to animals from poachers who may take advantage by posing as visitors.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has shot off a letter to state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh pointing out that "Patrolling the Tiger Land" scheme goes against the spirit as well as the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act to keep the core areas inviolate for tigers and wild animals.
"Hence exposing the tourists to sensitive patrolling routes, paths, strengths and weakness of the field staff would certainly pose a great threat to the safety of wildlife including tigers," the minister said.
He warned that as poaching was the biggest threat to wildlife, the poachers under the garb of tourists may acquire all details of the terrain besides the spatial occupancy of tigers and wild animals in the area.
"There is a very strong likelihood of the patrolling staff acting as 'guides' for the tourists with the latter luring them with rewards," the Union Minister noted.
The Madhya Pradesh Government is already drawing flak for the death of a tigress in Bandhavgarh sanctuary after it was hit by a tourists vehicle prompting the Centre to stress on regulating tourism in the protected areas.
Under the scheme approved by MP Chief Wildlife Warden HS Pabla, tourists will get themselves registered at the gate of the national park or sanctuary and will take round of the jungles along with the patrolling parties.
"Field patrolling is a specialised job involving lot of legwork and risk which may be possible only by the frontline staff who are recruited and trained to do the job," Ramesh said adding that tourists hardly have the physical or technical capacity to undertake the task.
Moreover, he added, the attention of the field staff would also be diverted to cater to the needs of the tourists rather than to focus on patrolling.
Ramesh also reminded the state government that any modification for construction of patrolling camps as proposed in the scheme for accommodating tourists amounted to "violation of the guidelines of the centrally sponsored schemes of this Ministry".
The Madhya Pradesh Government plans to start the scheme from the next tourism season, which will commence from October 16.