- What is core zones and Buffer Zone?
- What is Project Tiger?
- What is NTCA?
- Concept of Umbrella Species
- Timeline of Events
- Pro Arguments for Tiger Tourism
- Anti-Tourism Arguments
- Sept-Oct 2012: NTCA frames guidelines
- October 2012: SC Lifts the Ban
- Appendix 1: List of 41 tiger reserves in India
- Appendix 2: Maps of Tiger Reserves in India
Before discussing Supreme Court’s ban on Tiger Tourism, Let us go through some basics.
- Under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, the state governments have to notify the list of core and buffer areas of tiger reserves in their territory.
- Core zone (critical tiger habitats): This is where tigers usually rest, reside, feed and breed. Therefore, Government should prevent any disturbance in such areas, including tourism.
- Buffer zone = areas that lie in the periphery of the core zone.
- Buffer zones constitute the fringe areas (=The outside boundary or surface of something) of tiger reserves up to 10 kms. Following map should clear the concept:
- A 100% Centrally Sponsored Scheme, by Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF)
- It was launched in 1973, in nine reserves of different States (Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal)
- Right now it covers total 41 tiger reserves in 17 states.
- It is a program for “in-situ” conservation of Tigers. (what is the difference between in-situ vs ex-situ? What’re the pros and cons of each method? We’ve already seen it in an old article.
- In crude words,
- It provides for staff, equipment, and infrastructure in tiger reserves.
- Provides for money, in case a man or cattle is killed by wild animals, crop is lost, rehabilitation of villages etc.
- National Tiger Conservation Authority
- It is a provided in the Wildlife Protection Act (Ameneded in 2006).
- Therefore NTCA is a statutory body. The Minister of Environment and Forest, is the chairman of this NTCA. (Jayanthi Natarajan right now).
- It coordinates, implements and monitors Project Tiger.
- It prepares annual reports, which are laid down in the parliament.
- Deforestation because of
- Human pressure: farming, mining, illegal felling of trees.
- Grazing of domestic animals
- Because of Deforestation, the size of tiger-prey (Deer, sambar etc.) has declined.
- Hence tigers have to come outside the protected areas to hunt for animals, including domestic cattle. This leads to man-animal conflict, tiger deaths in road accidents, and provides ample opportunities to poachers.
- Tiger breeding/ reproduction is reduced/disturbed due to highways, noise pollution, tourism etc.
- Tiger is a territorial animal, which advertises its presence in an area through urine marking and maintains a territory. Therefore, to support a population of 80-100 tigers, you’d need a protected area of atleast 1000 sqkm- totally undisturbed. Otherwise the male tigers would fight, maim and kill eachother and the weaker ones would be forced to hunt in surrounding villages- leading to man-animal conflicts.
- But because of the highways, villages, farming activities, the Habitats are getting fragmented. Habitat Fragmentation = bad for tigers. They cannot move, hunt or breed freely in small and fragmented habitats.
- Insurgency in North East and naxals in Central India= Forest dept. cannot efficiently work and protect tigers.
- Tiger is an “umbrella species”. It resides at the top of the jungle food chain.
- A healthy tiger population indicates that the other ecological components in its habitat are equally robust, since tigers need large amount of prey and good habitat.
- If the Umbrella species is protected, it will also ensure viable populations of other wild animals (co –predators like Leopords and prey like dears) and the habitat (trees, shrubs, water).
- Thus, when you’re protecting the tiger, you’re indirectly protecting the whole jungle and all the species that live in it.
- India has a bilateral understanding with Nepal on controlling trans -boundary illegal trade in wildlife and conservation,
- India has signed a protocol on tiger conservation with China
- India has signed a protocol has with Bangladesh for conservation of tigers in Sunderban region.
- India has Constituted a group on tiger and leopard conservation with Russia.
- India is a party to Convention on Inter national Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
- Unlike China, India doesn’t support captive breeding of tigers (breeding tigers on a commercial scale, to sell their hides and bones later, just like a poultry farm).
- India made an appealing to China to phase out tiger farming and eliminate stockpiles of Atiger body parts and derivatives.
Now coming to the topic of SC Ban on Tiger Tourism
One Mr.Ajay Dubey (NGO named “Prayatna”) filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in Supreme court.
He argued that
- Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 implies that tourism to all “core” tiger habitats in India should be banned.
- But yet, Several state Governments have allowed the construction of hotels, resorts and shops inside the core areas of tiger reserves.
So, Supreme court looked into the matter and imposed a temporary ban on all tourism in the core areas of tiger reserves.
- Consider this- Supreme Court has only banned tourism activity in the “CORE” zone and not in the “buffer” zone.
- Yet the media covered the whole news in such a sensationalized manner that potential tourists thought SC has completely banned tourism in tiger reserves. Hence they cancelled their trips.
- The truth is, the tourism was still permitted in buffer zones and many a times, tourists can get a glimpse of tigers and other wildlife, while touring in the buffer zones.
- For example, in Uttarakhand’s Jim Corbett National Park and Assam’s Kaziranga Wildlife Reserve, nobody is allowed to go into 95% of the core area. So even before the SC ban, for all these years, tourists were seeing the buffer area only.
- Tiger tourism is an 18 million dollar$ industry.
- In Madhya Pradesh Alone, more than 20,000 people earn their livelihood through tiger-tourism activities related activities.
- There are entire towns that rely on tourism. Ranthambhore [a National Park in Jaipur] alone gets 2 lakh tourists per year and provides employment to almost 4,000 local people directly (from hotel managers, travel guide, waiters, cooks etc) and perhaps 10 times that amount indirectly (rickshaw drivers, fruit-vegetable-milk suppliers etc.)
- Tourist season is October to March. And generally they get huge bookings during Diwali Season. But if tourism activities are banned then all those potential customers might prefer to go vacation elsewhere. Thus severely affecting the livelihood of so many people.
- Presence of tourists provides extra eyes and ears to the Forest Department.
- It helps protect the animals by deterring poachers and loggers,
- It does not affect the animals’ willingness to hunt or breed.
- Seventeen tiger reserves have few or no tigers left in them. No tourism has ever been allowed in or near these reserves. Instead, loggers arrived, thinned the jungle then tigers were forced to hunt outside core areas and poachers got easy opportunities to kill them.
- Poachers are the largest threat to tigers, not tourism. And the solution thus, is improvement in law enforcement rather than a ban on tourism.
- The complete ban on tourism = ban would result in loss of livelihood (income) to local populations (Who work as tourist guides, supply vegetables etc to the hotels etc.)
- And then they would be forced to be more dependent on forest for their livelihood e.g. cutting trees, selling jungle produce illegally, may be hunting and poaching. so overall, this ban will damage the jungles and wildlife.
- The tour operators run ‘wildlife safaris’ day and night. All the vehicle movement, honking, shouting, camera flashes disturb the tigers.
- Construction of hotels, shops etc = deforestation.
- The garbage created by tourists, hotels = not good.
Recap: SC had banned tourism in core areas of tiger reserves. So, if Government wanted to get this ban lifted, it’d need to convince the supreme court that we are doing everything to protect the tigers and make sure tourism doesn’t hurt the tigers.
Union Government >> Ministry of Environment and Forest >> National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). This NTCA framed new guideline for State Governments regarding the Tiger Tourism.
Here are the salient guidelines / main recommendations:
- Allow tourist activities, only up to 20 percent of the core/critical tiger habitat.
- Instead of the conventional wildlife tourism, promote a new type of tourism (ecotourism) that conserves the environment, educates the tourists about tiger conservation and improves the well-being of the local people.
- Make sure that no new tourism infrastructure (resorts, hotels, shops etc) is created in the core areas of tiger reserves.
- If there are already any permanent tourist infrastructure (resort,hotels etc) inside the core areas, then they’ll be removed in phased manner. The procedure will be regulated by a Local Advisory Committee. This Local Advisory Committee will comprise of divisional commissioner, local MLA and district collector.
- Charge a conservation fee ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 3000 from the tourism -depending upon the number of beds in a particular resort. And use this money for the benefit of local community.(education, health, etc)
- Visitors be kept at least 20 meters from all forms of wildlife and nobody will be allowed to lure or feed any wildlife creatures.
- each tiger reserve should calculate the maximum number of visitors and vehicles that can be permitted on any given day considering their potential to disturb wildlife. E.g. At Kanha, the limit will be 25 vehicles in forenoon and 15 in afternoon
- Use of battery operated vehicles, instead of diesel or petrol operated vehicles, to reduce noise pollution.
- 10 per cent of the revenue generated from pilgrim centres located in tiger reserves, should be spent for to develop local communities via Gram Sabha.
- All tour guides and drivers shall compulsorily go through a short course in rules and regulations of tiger-reserves, followed by an oral examination. Only after passing the exam, they’ll be allowed to conduct tours.
- All certified guides and drivers shall wear special uniforms with name tags and badges.
- Prior to every tourist season, certified guides and drivers shall go through a refresher course or workshop.
- The use of wood as fuel shall be prohibited, except for campfires
- All tourist facilities, old and new- must be environment friendly.
- Have low height
- Shall aim to generate at least 50 % of their total energy and fuel requirements from alternate energy sources (solar and biogas)
- Waste recycling, water management,
- Natural cross-ventilation (to reduce the need for AC),
- No use of asbestos,
- Discharge of only treated sewage,
- No air pollution,
- Minimal outdoor lighting outside the building
- They should merging with the surrounding landscape, via right combination of wall colors and aesthetic architecture.
Now, Union Government filed an affidavit in the Supreme court and said “Please see this list of guidelines framed by NTCA. We’ll make sure that tourism doesn’t harm the tigers. Now please lift the ban.”
October 2012: UPSC asks the question
UPSC Conducts Civil Service (Mains) General Studies Exam, and asks following question.
Q. The issue of tourism in core areas of tiger reserve forests in the country is a subject matter of debate. Critically examine various aspects of this issue, keeping in view relevant recent judicial pronouncements. (250 words, 25 marks)
- Supreme Court considers the plea of Government and passes judgment: ok well very, since you’ve framed the new guidelines, We lift the ban.
- but from now onwards, all the tourism activities must be regulated in very strict manner. And We also direct the state governments to prepare their tiger conservation plan within in six months and submit it to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for approval.
- In last century, there were more than 40,000 tigers in India, now barely 1700 left.
- Tiger protection is not the job of Forest Department alone. It requires coordination between and stakeholders, including the departments forestry, agriculture, social welfare, tourism, fisheries, tea -coffee estates, road and rail transport, mining, thermal power plants, irrigation projects, temples, tour operators, tourists, Gram Sabha, local villagers.
- Unless each and every one of them is sensitized about the issue, tiger may not survive to see the next century.
Suppose you’re the administrator of a tiger reserve. Give us a list of essential men and material requirements to run the organization.
- Police/forest guards/ex- army personnel, with wireless handsets, weapons, ammunition, and handcuffs for apprehending offenders.
- Compass, range finder, Global Positioning System (GPS), camera traps, radio collars, binoculars and night vision goggles., to petrol the jungle and keep an eye on tigers.
- Kerosene, tent, medicine, field kit, mosquito net, torch etc.
- Vehicles (Gypsy, Jeep, Truck, Tractor, boats) to ferry the men and injured animals.
- elephants (for patrolling in core areas- because jeeps would disturb the tigers)
- Money to Rewards the informers about poaching and tree cutting.
- Tranquilizer guns, cages in case there is need to capture a man eater tiger/leopard or in case they attack on nearby villages.
- A 24/7 Veterinary doctor to deal with injured animals.
- Residential accommodation for the family and children of frontline staff (forest guards, doctors etc. in nearby towns or villages)
A side note for for GK
- Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to take up reint roduction of cheetah in the States of Rajasthan (Shahgarh area) and Madhya Pradesh (Kuno- Palpur and Noradehi Wildlife Sanctuaries).
- The said States would receive 100 % support towards village relocation.
It may not be possible to memorize the whole list, but atleast for the interview and State PSC exam, mugup the names of reserves in your state and in the surrounding states.
Here is the Statewise Alphabetical list.
|Biligiri Ranganatha Temple||Karnataka|
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has granted approval for creation of 5 new tiger reserves viz
- Pilibhit –UP
- Ratapani –MP
- Sunabeda –Odisha
- Mukundara Hills –Raj.
- Satyamangalm TN
And, Final approval has also been accorded to Kudremukh (Karnataka) for declaring as a tiger reserve.
NTCA has also requested the State Governments, to file proposals to create Tiger reserves in following areas.
- Bor (Maharashtra),
- Suhelwa (Uttar Pradesh),
- Nagzira-Navegaon (Maharashtra)
- Gu ru Ghasidas National Park (Chhattisgarh)
- Mhadei Sanctuary (Goa)
- Srivilliputhur Grizzled Giant Squirrel / Megamalai Wildlife Sanctuaries / Varushanadu Valley (Tamil Nadu).