Experts slam proposed eco-tourism rules

March 31, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 05:42 am IST - MYSURU:

The proposed guidelines for regulating eco-tourism close to eco-sensitive zones of national parks have sparked a controversy with stakeholders cautioning that it will spell doom to wildlife in the State.

Conservationists say it will disturb forests and wildlife and the guidelines also violated various court orders.

Sources told The Hindu that that the draft guidelines are being introduced by the Forest Department in a hurry without adequate discussion with stakeholders.

“The issue has also not been raised in the State Board for Wildlife and hence it should be put on hold,” according to a senior conservation biologist.

The draft regulations, a copy of which is available with The Hindu, allows for “regulated home stay with permission from appropriate authority and with the permission from the eco sensitive zone committee”.

But Arun Kumar of Sahayadri, an NGO working on conservation issues, said draft eco-sensitive zones around various national parks and wildlife sanctuaries have been issued (and notified in case of Bandipur) as per which resorts have been banned in the ESZ.

The guidelines stipulate that no commercial vehicle movement will be allowed within parks and wildlife sanctuaries from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The opponents have expressed fear that vehicles will be allowed from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m under the guide of promoting eco-tourism.

The guidelines state that tourism projects may be permitted under the relevant rules in eco-sensitive zones subject to the condition that the dwelling units are designed and proposed by the Karnataka Ecotourism Board. The stakeholders argue that if permission was issued for “limited tourism”, it would set a precedent and result in a runaway growth of such activities proving inimical to wildlife and forests.

A Karnataka High Court order has called for reviewing existing tourism and development projects in wildlife areas and remove them if found to be violating the laws. Hence the guidelines cannot go against the court order.

The continuous protection to forests over the decades had resulted in good recovery by wildlife and this would be nullified if eco tourism was encouraged in such landscapes, according to Sahayadri.

They say it’ll disturb forests and allege that guidelines violate court orders

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