‘States feel ban will affect local people dependent on tourism for livelihood’

Under pressure from various States, the Central government has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court seeking permission to review the guidelines issued under the Wildlife (Protection) Act for the States to ban all tourism activities in core areas of tiger reserve forests.

The case will come up for hearing on Wednesday.

On July 24, a Bench of Justices Swatatner Kumar and Ibrahim Kalifulla imposed the ban, when told that most of the States had not complied with the directions contained in the guidelines.

On Tuesday, Wasim A. Qadri, counsel for the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, filed the affidavit. Subsequent to the July 24 order, he said, the States sent in representations saying that they would like to give inputs for reviewing the guidelines.

“The States have expressed concern that many local people depend on tourism for their livelihood, and hence stoppage of tourism in the core areas of tiger reserves would result in [a] loss of such income, leading to discontent which may be a threat to wildlife and forests. Besides, the common citizen would be deprived of an opportunity to appreciate our natural heritage. Further, concerns have been expressed in various quarters at the process adopted by the States for notifying the buffer areas of the tiger reserves,” the affidavit said.

“The NTCA feels that the guidelines, submitted in the context of ecotourism in and around protected areas, require a further review based on more consultations with all stakeholders, including the State governments and representatives of local, indigenous communities.” Hence, the court should permit the NTCA to further review the guidelines and hold more consultations with all stakeholders and go through the process the States adopted for notifying the buffer areas.

Several States, non-governmental organisations and other interested parties had also filed applications for lifting the ban.

The Bench passed the ban order on a petition filed by conservationist Ajay Dubey seeking a direction to the States to notify the buffer/peripheral areas of tiger reserves for prevention of tourism in the core areas. Subsequently, 10 States issued the notification.

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