(From Left) Sunil Limaye and Kishore Mishrikotkar during a press conference about forest tourism at Vanbhavan office in Pune on Tuesday.(HT PHOTO)
(From Left) Sunil Limaye and Kishore Mishrikotkar during a press conference about forest tourism at Vanbhavan office in Pune on Tuesday.(HT PHOTO)

Eco tourism board to develop 320 villages as tourist destinations in Maharashtra

Maharashtra has six tiger reserves; Melghat, Tadoba, Pench, Bor, Navegaon-Nagzira and Sahyadri; along with 42 national parks. 
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, Pune
UPDATED ON APR 24, 2018 03:03 PM IST

In a bid to help small villages earn consistent revenue and to ensure the protection of the biodiversity of exotic areas in the state, the ecotourism board of Maharashtra will be developing 320 sites into tourist destinations. These sites will include tiger reserves, national parks, forts, hill stations, religious places and biodiversity parks, said Sunil Limaye, additional principal chief conservator of forests.

“Our priority is protecting wild life and forests and we can only do this with the help of local villagers. The development of such places will help villagers realise that it can be their regular source of income and that their involvement will be crucial for the protection. The forest department will be playing the monitoring role. In case of any rule violation, villagers will pass on the information to us. They will also have certain powers. Such projects will also facilitate employment opportunities such as tour guides, home stays and restaurants. Sale of tobacco or alcohol will not be entertained,” Limaye said. 

Maharashtra has six tiger reserves; Melghat, Tadoba, Pench, Bor, Navegaon-Nagzira and Sahyadri; along with 42 national parks. 

“The ecotourism board came into existence in 2015. Since then, we have identified 320 places (forest lands) which can be developed into tourist destinations. We have the potential to run the project successfully and Hazara falls in Gondia district is the classic example. We are planning to develop other villages in a similar manner. Currently, we are working on 106 sites and by the end of 2019, the projects will be completed,” said Kishor Mishrikotkar, retired divisional forest officer (DFO). 

Restrictions on trekking routes 

The Sahydri Tiger Reserve in Koyananagar area has put restrictions on few trekking routes, including at forts such as Wasota and Prachitgad. The move has been made due to their proximity to core forest area.

When asked whether the ecotourism board is going to develop forest trails, Limye said, “We will develop alternate trekking routes to visit theses forts, but can’t allow them to pass through core forest area. Secondly, we can’t allow trekkers without putting some restrictions in place and will form a joint forest management committee at the base villages. Local villagers will keep a check on trekkers and will inform the forest officials of any untoward event. We are aiming to facilitate responsible tourism.” 

Ecotourism sites near Pune 

1) Tamhini sanctuary 

2) Sudhagarh sanctuary 

3) Siddhagad fort 

4) Raiyeshwar plateau 

5) Waghdongar, Purandar 

6) Rohideshwar, Bhor 

7) Hadsar fort, Junnar

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