To protect tigers, the Supreme Court on Tuesday banned all tourism activities in the core areas of the tiger reserve forests.
A Bench of Justices Swatanter Kumar and Ibrahim Kalifullah passed the order on a petition filed by conservationist Ajay Dubey that sought a directive to the States to notify the buffer and peripheral areas of the tiger reserves, under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, to prevent tourism in the core areas.
In April, the court heard senior counsel and amicus curie Raj Panjwani and asked Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Karnataka and Maharashtra to issue the notification. On Tuesday, the court was told that except Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Arunachal Pradesh, the other States had not filed affidavits and were yet to notify the core areas.
Wasim A. Qadri, counsel for the National Tiger Conservation Authority, which works under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, submitted the guidelines framed for ecotourism in and around the protected areas.
After hearing counsel for the States, the Bench said: “Why should tourism be allowed in core areas? Tigers are practically on the verge of extinction, whatever the statistics is.”
In its order, the Bench said: “Despite this court’s order on April 3, several States have not issued notification for buffer and core areas … During the course of the hearing, Jharkhand and Arunachal Pradesh have said they are ready with the notification, while the other States said they are attempting to do so.” (Rajasthan has already issued the notification.)
Giving three weeks — as the last opportunity — to those States that have not yet notified the core areas and filed affidavits, the Bench imposed Rs. 10,000 in costs on them.
“If affidavits are not filed by these States [by then], this court will initiate contempt action and impose costs [on them] up to Rs. 50,000. Affidavits will have to be filed within three weeks. No further time will be given. The [National] Tiger Conservation Authority has placed its recommendation of guidelines."
"We will take up the guidelines for final hearing, so that the Centre can issue a notification for fixing [the] area and utilisation of [the] buffer and core area.”
The Bench said: “We make it clear that till final directions of this court with reference to the … guidelines, the core areas … will not be used for tourism.” The court directed the matter to be listed for further hearing on August 22.