Extending the ban on tourist activities in tiger reserves till August 29, the Supreme Court Wednesday came down hard on the government, saying it was more worried about commerce than tiger conservation.
On July 24, the court banned tourism activity in the core areas of tiger reserves. The Centre had cited the National Tiger Conservation Authority guidelines to put a stop to tourism in the big cat’s habitat. On Wednesday, it sought a review of these guidelines.
“We want to know on what basis you want to do it (review)? Why did you initially recommend the ban?” the court asked.
In a fresh affidavit, the ministry of environment and forests Tuesday requested time to revisit the guidelines.
It said a fresh consultation process was required in wake of suggestions, objections and apprehensions expressed by various states.
The bench — justice AK Patnaik and justice Swatanter Kumar — refused to alter the ban order.
"What are you going to do to save tigers? Earlier it was 13,000, now it has come down to 1,200. You are more worried about the commercial activities," the court said.
Extending the ban to August 29, next date of hearing, the bench said, "The Union of India has not done anything except filling affidavits."
The ban would threaten wildlife as many locals depended on tourism for livelihood and would lead to discontent, the Centre said.
As per the July 24 direction, states also have to notify buffer zones that constitute the fringe areas of reserves. Breeding takes place in these areas.