IN VIOLATION of the provisions of Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, Forest Department officials are learnt to have allowed about half-a-dozen dhabas (eateries) to start operations in the heart of the Bandhavgarh National Park. The dhabas are creating problems for the wildlife of the park.
Visitors to the park told the Hindustan Times that the dhabas serve all kinds of snacks in the core area of the park. The tourists, who had come from Delhi to get a glimpse of the famed white tiger, said that they were surprised to instead come across fires lit up for cooking snacks. This when the Wildlife Protection Act prohibits even taking matchboxes and cigarettes inside national parks.
Other eyewitnesses confirmed these developments and expressed surprise over how forest officials were allowing such operations in the heart of the national park.
Former local Congress MLA Narendra Singh also confirmed that some outlets were running inside the national park. “These outlets are not only serving tea and coffee but also providing a variety of snacks along with packets of wafers.
The empty packets can be seen littering the park, which is harmful for both the flora and fauna,” he said. Pointing out that national parks are established to protect wildlife, not earn money, Singh said that the forest officials’ act had created a threat to the wildlife of Bandhavgarh National Park.
However, the Umaria district administration and forest officials expressed ignorance about the developments. Collector V.A. Kuril said he was not aware of what was going on but added that similar outlets were operational in Kanha National Park. Senior forest officer Aseem Shrivastava denied that any such thing was going on in the park.
However, other senior officials confirmed that some eateries were operating in the forest area. “We have started some outlets owned by forest committees so as to serve tea and coffee to tourists,” said one officer. He said that these outlets had been started to reduce the rush of tourists at the time of tiger sighting. However, he denied that fires were being lit inside the park.
Principal Secretary, Forest, Avni Vaish expressed ignorance. He said that such activities should not be undertaken inside national parks. “We will inquire into the matter and if there is any substance in it, action will be taken against the persons concerned,” said Vaish.