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It's now tiger versus tourism

The advent of the demolition men in Ranthambore has again raked up the debate between development and ecology.

india Updated: Jan 20, 2006 02:19 IST

Rajasthan's intentions are noble. It's all for the right cause. But the advent of the demolition men in Ranthambore National Park has once again raked up the old debate between development and ecology.

At the crux of the row is tiger safety. An issue, which has hogged global attention because of the depleting of big cat population in the country's reserves. After Sariska, no one wants to take a chance.

So, are tigers better off at Ranthambore after the state government's first-ever demolition campaign against "illegal structures" within or at the periphery of the park's identified 500-meter core area? The issue has pitted the wildlife and the tourism lobbies in a passionate debate.

'My net worth of my properties have come down by about Rs.50-Rs 60 lakh after these demolitions, but it is a small price to pay if tigers can be saved," says Fateh Singh Rathore of Tiger Watch, while adding: "The real cause for worry is that saving tigers does not figure high on the state government's agenda at all. I have been targeted for having consistently exposed and embarrassed the state government on the poaching issue".

State government officials on conditions of anonymity, say Fateh Singh is in the habit of raising the tiger bogey each time his "illegal activity" come to light. "It is as if tigers can only be saved if Fateh Singh and his family are allowed a free run of the place," they add.

Sawai Madhopur collector Rajesh Yadav makes a valid point in this connection. "The state government's action has instilled fear among builders. At least for the time being, the rush for illegal constructions around the park area will stop. To that extent, avoidable human pressure on the sanctuary will also ease".

Meantime, the demolition exercise - conducted in the midst of the peak tourist season - does not seem to have done too much good to the tourism business. Small knots of foreign tourists, who frequent the park at this time of the year, were seen loitering about with dazed expression on their faces.

First Published: Jan 20, 2006 02:19 IST