The famous Ranthambore and Sariska national parks in Rajasthan were thrown open to tourists on October 17, a day after the Supreme Court lifted the interim ban on tourist activities in the core areas of tiger reserve forests in the country, following the notification of revised comprehensive guidelines for tourism in these zones.

The resumption of tourism activities brought cheer to hoteliers and tour operators, whose business had been hit hard by the cancellation of tiger safaris and bookings, following the impasse after the apex court’s July 24 order, which halted all tourism-related activities in the tiger reserve areas. Both the national parks were to be opened on October 1.

Nature guides, hotel and showroom owners, and vehicle owners, who were most affected by the ban, expressed satisfaction on the green signal given to the tourists, with the modification of the Supreme Court order. Local hoteliers lit fireworks to celebrate the lifting of the ban.

State Forest and Environment Minister Bina Kak said the tourism activities in the two national parks would be conducted strictly in accordance with the guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

“In compliance with the new orders, we will develop buffer zones in the two national parks for habitation of [wild] animals. The local residents may render help in this work to facilitate expansion of the tiger habitat and promote eco-tourism activities,” said Ms. Kak.

Tour operators expressed their gratitude to the Forest Department for actively pursuing the matter with the Union government and bringing it to a proper conclusion at the earliest. Ms. Kak pointed out that the construction of new infrastructure would not be allowed in the core and critical tiger habitat areas. However, tourists have been permitted to enter into the core areas as per the new guidelines.

Ranthambore and Sariska national parks are already following the eco-tourism guidelines by restricting the tourism activities to less than 20 per cent of the core areas falling in Sawai Madhopur and Alwar districts.

According to the tour operators, tourism at the two tiger reserves would pick up by this month-end, as the word on the ban being lifted would spread among the foreign tourists through travel agents. Tourist season in the desert State starts in October every year, when both foreign and domestic tourists start arriving here in the pleasant post-monsoon atmosphere.