Private resorts can hope for more seats on safari rides

Resorts operating in protected areas can now hope for greater access to forests for their clients.

A new marks system will rate the resort’s green quotient, and the higher the score, the larger the number of seats it will qualify for on the limited number of safari rides now permitted within national parks and sanctuaries.

This is among the strategies envisaged for the forthcoming ecotourism guidelines being chalked out for Karnataka. A year ago, the Supreme Court had directed all States to come up with specific strategies for wildlife tourism and ecotourism.

Vinay Luthra, CEO of the Karnataka Ecotourism Development Board, said that the marks system will rate resorts according to certain green criteria such as using clean energy, hiring naturalists, managing sewage, employing local communities and banning plastic.

In 2011 the State government cancelled the vehicle permits of all private resorts that operated in sanctuaries and national parks, and ordered them to use vehicles from Jungle Lodges and Resorts, a State government undertaking. Since then the resorts have been allotted a fixed quota of seats on JLR’s safaris. The number of safaris allowed in each protected area is based on the carrying capacity: Kabini, for instance is permitted 22 safari rides a day.

“We need a strategy to control the resorts and incentivise green practice,” said Mr. Luthra. He was speaking at a conference on Eco Tourism Policy and Guidelines here on Tuesday, organised by the Karnataka State Eco Tourism Development Board and Karnataka State Forest Department.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forest B.K. Singh said that tourism pressure on tiger reserves can be eased if resorts looked at reserve forests as a viable option for their wilderness tourism operations.

Minister for Forests, Ecology and Environment Ramanath Rai inaugurated the conference.