State govts told to ban tourism in key tiger areas
Several resorts in and around tiger reserves may cease to exist as the Centre has asked state governments to acquire 800 to 1,000 square kilometers to provide core inviolate (empty) area for tigers and ban tourism there.
In new guidelines issued to relocate 6,000 families in 41 tiger reserves in India, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has told the state governments that even private land includes estates should be acquired for creating inviolate space.
"The above component has been included under the Project Tiger scheme for providing 100 % central assistance to states to acquire such areas, if necessary, for making the core/critical tiger habitat inviolate," the NTCA guidelines issued last week said.
A study by Dehradun based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has shown that this much inviolate area is required for a viable population of 20 breeding tigresses. The NTCA believes that having them in core area will help in sustaining a population of 75-100 tigers in a reserve. "We can have a sustainable tiger population of 3,000," a NTCA official said.
In a bid to achieve the goal, the NTCA told the state governments to acquire land and relocate people by paying a compensation of up to Rs 10 lakh from the core area for declaring it inviolate. "A detailed guideline has been issued on how to relocate people in conformation with the Forest Rights Act and rejuvenate the land," the official said.
Resorts and guest houses around smaller tiger reserves such as Kanha in Madhya Pradesh and Ranthambore in Uttar Pradesh would get acquired, if the state governments implement the guideline. However, hospitability industry around bigger reserves such as Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand will not be affected.
Tourism may further suffer as the guideline asks shifting of tourism from the core tiger areas to the buffer zone so check adverse impact of human interference on animals. The NTCA has blamed excessive unregulated tourism for falling tiger population in many reserves.
Vishal Singh of Travel Operators for Tigers, a body of lodge owners around tiger reserves in India said their data showed that tiger population had either increased or stabilised where tourism was allowed and accused NTCA of failing to put its house in order. "Falling tiger population is not because of tourism but other conservation issues which NTCA has failed to address," he said.
The NTCA has linked further release of funds for tiger conservation with implementation of these guidelines.