Paving the way for the Supreme Court (SC) in lifting its interim ban on tiger tourism, the government will suggest restricted tourism activity with eco-tax in the core areas and give more flexibility to state governments on its regulation.
An expert committee constituted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) on Tuesday decided to revise the earlier guidelines submitted to the court and allowed state governments to designate special tourism zones as per their choice in core areas which have highest tiger density.
“The change will definitely create more space for conservation-friendly tourism,” a person privy to the meeting said.The SC on July 24 had placed an interim ban on tourism in core areas — most frequented by tourists — following the NTCA’s earlier guidelines recommending shifting of tourism from core areas to buffer zones, whose demarcation was also made mandatory.
The committee, set up following protests by state governments and Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, also decided to de-link promotion of eco-tourism with notification of core and buffer areas in 42 tiger reserves. The SC had also threatened to impose penalty on states that had failed to issue the demarcation notifications.
The NTCA will provide more flexibility to the state governments in identifying green zones for tourism and utilisation of revenue generated through tourism for tiger conservation. States will have the power to allow new tourism facilities outside tiger reserves as part of the eco-tourism management plan.
The NTCA has, however, persisted with its earlier recommendation to levy a 10% eco-tax on all tourism facilities within 5 km of the tiger reserves to fund conservation. It was learnt that most state wildlife wardens participated in three meetings of the committee had no problems with the new tax proposal.
The NTCA has given village bodies a role in the preparation of the eco-tourism plan and its implementation. Tribal affairs minister Kishore Chandra Deo had objected to the guidelines, saying they aim to undermine settlement of rights recognised under the Forest Rights Act.
The SC would be hearing the case on September 27.