Following the Supreme Court order, State wildlife authorities on Wednesday, banned tourism in the three tiger reserves of Mudumalai in Udhagamandalam, Anamalai near Pollachi, and Kalakkad – Mundanthurai in Tirunelveli district.
Officials in the forest headquarters said the field directors of the three tiger reserves have been asked to instruct the district forest officers concerned to stop allowing tourists till the apex court passes further judgement. Incidentally, the core tiger habitat in Mudumalai, which includes Theppakadu elephant camp, and Anamalai, where Top Slip is, are the core tourist spots thronged by several thousands of tourists every year.
Senior forest officials concede that no distinction was earlier made between core areas and buffer areas in the reserves. The clearances of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has been obtained for Anamalai and Kalakkad – Mundanthurai, said an official, adding that the process of notification by the State government was definitely on.
In Mudumalai and Anamalai, the relocation of original residents through ‘golden handshake’ was making a slow progress as the tribals could not be evicted without their wish, say forest officials. As the MoEF has given guidelines for eco sensitive zones (buffer areas), the forest officials, and in certain cases the district administrations would have tough time in the immediate future to allay the apprehensions of several thousands of settlers in areas like Sigur, Singara and Thengumarahada, adjoining the Mudumalai tiger reserve.
According to an official of Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR), conservation efforts and habitat improvement programmes alone will go on in the tiger reserve, and tourism activities will not be permitted.
(With inputs from V.S. Palaniappan in Coimbatore)
N. Anand writes from Chennai:
Tourists from Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in Theppakadu had to beat a hasty retreat on Wednesday as the guest houses belonging to Hotel Tamil Nadu and forest department were closed following the Supreme Court’s order.
The tourists numbering about a dozen were unaware of the development until they reached the spot about 300 metres from Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Velayudham, Manager, Hotel Tamil Nadu, Theppakadu, said there about 15 rooms in the area that could accommodate easily 110 persons. The room occupancy in these places had been over 80 per cent throughout the year as it was the connecting point for three southern states namely Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.