India best tiger reserve Corbett National Park has caused another face-off between Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and Uttaranchal Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal.
For better conservation of tigers, Jairam Ramesh wants Pokhriyal to reduce the inflow of tourist vehicles into the Corbett National Park, which has highest tiger density per square km of forest area. More than two lakh tourists visited the National Park in the past year with a daily average of 400 through four tourist gates.
The high inflow of tourists, according to Ramesh, has caused higher air and noise pollution inside the park, a probable cause for stress to tigers. The noise created by vehicular movement is said to be a reason for poor breeding of tigers.
“It had happened in Sariska,” said a senior scientist with Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India, giving high tourist inflow as a possible reason for poor breeding of tigers in Sariska before they vanished in 2004.
Ramesh had also sounded a similar caution for Corbett, while asking the Chief Minister to reduce the number of vehicles allowed inside the park. Data with National Tiger Conservation Authority indicates that tourist influx inside the park has increased because of its close proximity with Delhi.
Uttaranchal government, however, contended that the tourists being allowed inside the parks were within the permissible limits and no fresh restrictions can be imposed. “Livelihood of a large number of locals is dependent on tourists... We cannot impose unrealistic restrictions just because the Centre wants it,” said Anil Baluni, deputy advisor with the state environment advisory committee.
The environment minister had earlier asked the state government to restrict construction of resorts in and around Corbett. Ramesh has opposed construction of hydel projects in the upper reaches of Ganga river basin and wants to declare the 130-km stretch of Bhagirathi river in the state as ecologically sensitive. Ministry panels have also opposed hydel projects on Gori Ganga and Mandakini rivers in the state.