Parambikulam Tiger Reserve has been able to make rapid strides in initiatives relating to eco-tourism as well improve forest management through community based eco-tourism, said K. Vijayanandan, Deputy Director and Wildlife Warden of Parambikulam Tiger Reserve (PTR).
He was speaking on the topic “Tribal Development through community based eco-tourism - Parambikulam Experience” at the Enviro Meet organised by Osai – Voice for Nature, an NGO.
Mr. Vijayanandan said that Parambikulam Tiger Reserve has many firsts to its credit, made possible through the participation of tribal people. Being a most protected forest area, the reserve has nearly five endemic flora varieties, he said.
Ever since the Joint Forest and Participatory Management was introduced, the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve has not witnessed even a single incident of poaching since 2004 and since 2007 there had not been a single incident of forest fire.
Employment opportunity for 234 tribal people, benefitting over 260 families, has resulted in the reserve becoming the first domestic cattle-free protected forest area.
Tribal people have become part of the Social Tiger Protection Force and are effectively combating forest and wildlife-related offences. There are seven eco-development committees serving the restricted and regulated eco-tourism needs and looking after the livelihood of tribal people. There are 13 eco-tourism packages being made available to tourists by the Department through tribal people.
Plastic waste has reduced tremendously and remaining waste are recycled and made into key chains embedded with PTR related images and slogans. They are sold as souvenir for the tourists. The tourism is regulated carefully avoiding disturbance to wildlife by banning the entry of private vehicles. Four new vehicles with 18 seats each have been inducted for taking the tourists around the reserve.
Referring to the farming activity in Poopara hamlet by the tribal people, Mr.Vijayanandan said that banana cultivation earlier led to human – animal conflict. Now, with inputs from Forest Department, the tribal people have switched over to ginger, coffee, pepper and turmeric cultivation, which are not sought after by wild animals. Organic certification and good price has turned them a happy lot today, he added.
Mr. Vijayanandan said that the PTR recorded revenue of Rs. 1.25 crore during 2009-10 and it became Rs. 1.86 crore in 2010-2011 and in 2011-2012 it had risen to Rs. 2.45 crore. Of the revenue generated during the last year, Rs. 85 lakh was disbursed as salary to tribal people employed by the Forest Department, while Rs. 90 lakh was spent towards maintenance and upkeep.
He said that with eco-tourism initiatives aided by tribal people, the tiger reserve has become almost self-sufficient. During the previous fiscal, a total of 47,500 tourists had visited the tiger reserve, he said.
Referring to the ongoing problem of tree cutting in Coimbatore, Mr. Vijayanandan said that the 245-year-old Connemara teak, the oldest in the entire country, has so far benefitted the earth to a tune of Rs. 8 crore in terms of oxygen generation. He said that trees need to be looked at for the ecological value and the benefits it gives to humanity.
On involving the generations of tomorrow towards the task of conservation and inculcating the ability to appreciate nature, Mr. Vijayanandan said that during 2011-2012, as many as 60 nature camps benefitting 2,250 students were held providing free food and accommodation. C.R. Jayaprakash, Assistant Professor of PSG College of Arts and Science, presided over the function and K. Kalidasan, president of Osai, took part.