No violation of norms in vehicle entry into Corbett: Forest officials
Uttarakhand high court on Friday restricted the entry of tourist vehicles to ‘not more than 100 per day’ after it was apprised that there was no restriction on the number of vehicles plying in Ramnagar forestdehradun Updated: Aug 04, 2018 22:05 IST
There is no violation in entry of tourist vehicles for safari in Corbett Tiger Reserve, forest officials said Saturday, a day after Uttarakhand high court restricted the number of such vehicles to “not more than 100 per day.”
The HC order came after the court was apprised that there was no restriction on the number of vehicles plying in Ramnagar forest. Senior forest officials, however, met chief secretary Utpal Kumar Singh and claimed that vehicles were allowed inside the reserve as per the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) protocol with regard to the carrying capacity.
The chief secretary, on behalf of the Utatrakhand government, will file an affidavit before HC presenting the documents pertaining to number of vehicles approved by NTCA and the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC). The next hearing is on August 6, Monday
The HC on Friday directed the state government that not more than 100 vehicles per day be permitted to enter Sitabani, Bijrani and Dhela zones of Corbett Tiger Reserve, including Kalagarh and Rajaji National Park, in a day. At present more than 200 such vehicles enter Corbett with tourists.
Hearing a PIL filed by a Ramnagar-based NGO, the HC said, “Only those private gypsies /commercial gypsies would be permitted to ply to whom valid permits have been issued by the RTO and concerned divisional forest officers (DFOs). The Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, is directed to carry out a survey within three months from today to assess the carrying capacity of these zones pertaining to the number of vehicles which can be permitted to ply to avoid minimum disturbance to the wildlife.”
The reserve, known for highest density of tigers and home to 240 big cats, opens for tourists on November 15 and closes on June 15. During the seven month period, the reserve is visited by nearly 3 lakh tourists — both Indian and foreigners — and generates more than Rs 9 crore in revenue.
Currently, 250 vehicles (Gypsys) are registered with the reserve management. Ninety jeeps each during morning and evening shifts take the day visitors inside the reserve. Each vehicle carries maximum six tourists, excluding the driver and guide.
The Uttarakhand forest department claim tourists and vehicles are permitted as per the carrying capacity approved by National Tiger Conservation Reserve (NTCA) and ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC).
“The tourism in Corbett is carried out as per the rules and limits decided by NTCA and MoEFCC,” Rajeev Bhartari, chief wildlife warden said.
The decision will give a major blow to the eco-tourism of hill state.
Accommodation facility is available in eight forest rest houses (FRHs) in Dhikala, Bijrani, Jhirna, Durga Devi, Sona Nadi and Haldupado zones of the reserve. Barring one FRH in Durga Devi zone, all the others fall in the core area. Dhikala is the most famous tourist zone, which also offers 12-bed dormitory. Two of these zones are used round the year for day safaris.
In fact, as per a 10 year plan of Corbett submitted to NTCA, the night stays in core areas shall be phased out by 2023. In this regard, two FRH in Dhikala were shut down in 2013.
While restricting the number of vehicles entering the forest reserves, the HC also today banned the use of elephants for joyrides and safari. The order came after the court was apprised that elephants were chained and ill-treated and some of them were used commercially by the owners of the resorts in Corbett Tiger Reserve area despite being blind, causing immense cruelty to the pachyderms.
On Thursday, hearing the same PIL, the court had taken a strict view of deaths of tigers in quick succession in the state, and had warned the government that “if no categorical assurance for the deployment of Special Tiger Protection Force in Corbett Tiger Reserve is given, we may be constrained to request the Ministry of Defence to deploy the Eco-Task Force to protect tigers”.
The court had said, “It is unfortunate that though the Special Tiger Protection Force has been constituted in the state on May 13, 2014, but till date, it has not been made functional.”
This year alone, more than nine tigers died in the state and a number of elephants also died due to railway accidents and electrocution, it said. “The state cannot be a spectator. It is an alarming situation. Remedial measures are required to be taken at the earliest to save the wildlife from poachers and also to relocate/shift van gujjars from the forest areas.
“It is also the need of the hour that criminal tribes are kept at bay from the vicinity of national parks to protect wildlife,” the court said.
The court had also directed the chief secretary to submit an affidavit on various queries regarding the matter by today which could not be filed due to paucity of time.
First Published: Aug 04, 2018 22:04 IST