After bringing out amendments in a host of environmental laws in the last few days, the Union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) is now framing new guidelines for 'eco-tourism' and 'management of parks and sanctuaries' in India.
It is considering the National Tiger Conservation Authority's (NTCA) guidelines - the only existing model - which has laws as strict as allowing not more than 20 per cent area of a tiger reserve to be used for tourism. funfacts
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- There are 50 tiger reserves under the jurisdiction of the NTCA - such as the Jim Corbett, Dudhwa, Melghat, Bandhavgarh, Periyar, etc.
- Separate guidelines will be framed for the 733 different kinds of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in the country such as alpine and flower valleys, bird habitats, marine, reptile and coastal parks, etc.
- For example, Odisha's Gahirmatha Beach, where Olive Ridley Turtles come to lay eggs in March may be completely barred at that time, sources said.
- One would not be allowed to pick up even a blade of grass from the Rhododendron Sanctuary in Sikkim, where the large and showy pink flowers bloom en masse. And, in certain Himalayan protected areas, their 'carrying capacity', including the number of vehicles and tourists that can be allowed, the timings, etc, will be reassessed.
- A senior MoEF officer said there is no 'ecotourism' guideline in place at present. Chief Wildlife Wardens of Protected Areas are empowered to permit and regulate the entry of visitors. However, the lack of guidelines leaves room for discretion and associated issues.
- "There are two related existing laws - one, the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980, which says any non-forestry activity in a jungle is unlawful and has to be compensated by afforestation or money. Now, if a road is built for tourism purpose, does it amount to diversion or management?" said an officer. "Similarly, the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, says a wildlife habitat must not be disturbed. But without allowing the youth or nature enthusiasts to visit the area, how do we expect them to appreciate conservation? So various states started posing these questions and we had to look into framing 'eco-tourism' guidelines," he informed.
- Another officer said, "Earlier, there were very few people touristing sanctuaries. But now, wildlife safari amounts to one-third tourism in India. In such a scenario, we need to regulate it. We are also considering financial controls such as increasing the fare of visiting such parks."
- As per NTCA's guidelines, each tiger reserve is divided into three zones - core, buffer and corridor. The visitors are not allowed into the core tiger habitat and in the other two as well, it is strictly moderated.
- Locals are also trained as guides, and providing home-stays to earn a living. It helps them develop a stake in conservation.