By Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Nov 19, 2012, 12.51 AM IST
NAGPUR: At a time when parks in the world are integrating conservation with economic development of locals and nurturing environment, premium tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh seem to be heading the other way.
The main focus of ecotourism policy framed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is to benefit locals but curtailed tourism in reserves like Kanha and Pench in MP after the Supreme Court judgment has badly hit stakeholders.
Both Kanha and Pench have cut down the number of vehicles allowed in by half, directly affecting locals who work as guides, operate Gypsys and run small businesses near reserves. The move is set to render many locals who work in private resorts unemployed.
In Kanha, until last season, the carrying capacity was 280 vehicles per day from two gates Khatia and Mukki. Now it has been reduced to 140 — 83 in the morning and 57 in the evening.
Similarly, in Pench, 130 vehicles were allowed earlier but now number been cut to 51 — 30 in the morning and 21 in the evening from three gates Karmazari, Turia and Jamtara.
The carrying capacity has been calculated by first measuring the length of the route that the vehicles will take, a visibility factor of 50 yards on each side of the road, and a distance of 500 yards between each vehicle to arrive at a number. NGOs working for tiger conservation with the help of locals around the parks ask whether conservation can succeed if communities living near parks are alienated and harmed monetarily.
“Conservation of tigers is factoring our progress by way of livelihood. We feel alienated as our livelihood has been hit. Such insane policies will lead to socioeconomic destruction,” said Alim Sheikh Rashid (name changed), a Gypsy-owner and resident of Khatia.
Pench field director Alok Kumar was not available for comments. Deputy director of Kanha S M Mohanty justified the move. “We are following the NTCA guidelines. Earlier, 47% core area of the park was opened. As per the revised guidelines we have brought it down to 20%,” Mohanty said. Similar is the situation in other parks in MP, he added.
“The arguments went on for three months and stakeholders were asked for their viewpoint. If they still have any problems, they should take it up with the government,” Mohanty stressed.
According to rough estimates by Nishikant Mukherjee, a retired professor who works with Baiga tribals in Kanha, income and revenue loss due to curtailed tourism comes to around Rs 30 crore, and close to loss of 4 lakh man hours of employment of locals around Kanha.
Mukherjee called for a debate on the track record of NTCA. “What has been the track record of NTCA? 40 years ago at the start of ‘Project Tiger’ there were 2,500 tigers in India. Now there are 1,706 tigers left. What is their great achievement,” asks Mukherjee.
Pench Jungle Lodges Federation secretary Sandeep Singh agrees. He says with curtailed tourism, local Gypsy owners are sitting idle and guides who used to earn Rs 200-400 daily are now deprived of sustained income.
Singh informed around 250 youths from villages around Pench work in resorts. These youths are on the verge of losing their jobs as, with occupancy down, most resort owners are planning to withdraw them. Singh said Pench has already been booked during December but occupancy of resorts is dull. Tourism has also hit local shop-owners from whom purchases are made by resort owners. Hundreds of visitors, unaware of the new rule, had to return without a safari after parks reopened in October. “Under such circumstances, why would resort owners pay the mandatory conservation fee to the parks,” Singh adds.
BHOPAL: A week after a campaign to catch tigers roaming in the Kerwa, Kaliasot and Kathotia jungles near state capital, big catscontinue to elude more than 60 personnel of the forest department pressed into the job of trekking their movements.
Six elephants – two from Bandhavgarh national park and four from the world famous Kanha -have been trekking the jungles monitoring the movement of the three tigers.
There are two full grown tigers- one male and another female- and a 13-month-old cub -moving in the small patch of jungle. The tigress has been roaming almost for the last two years.
“Every day we come across signs of the tigers-pug marks, droppings et al or the tigers themselves deep inside the jungle, but so far they have not given us a chance to tranquilise them,” says an officer involved in the massive operation.
The decision to shift the tigers from the narrow patch of jungle was taken with mainly two issues under consideration- safety of animals and the people.
The tigers have been roaming in a narrow strip of forest close to the human population. It is in the interest of both -the man as well as the beast to translocate them to the Satpura national Park, the experts had opined.
Efforts are on to catch, preferably, the tigress and the cub, radio collar them, if possible, and shift them to the Satpura tiger reserve, forest department officials said.
Excerpts : TOI
By Preetika Rana
- October 15, 2012, 3:14 PM IST
- Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
- Indian tiger reserves that opened their doors this month say a recent ban on tourism aimed at protecting the big cats has sharply hurt revenues and puts a cloud over their future.
Indian tiger reserves that opened their doors this month say a recent ban on tourism aimed at protecting the big cats has sharply hurt revenues and puts a cloud over their future.
In July, the Supreme Court issued a temporary order banning tourism in the parks’ “core areas” – or the zones with most tigers, an endangered species. On Tuesday, the court is expected to rule to make this a permanent order.
Activists who support the ban say it’s needed to save India’s tigers, whose numbers have dwindled to about 1,700 from an estimated population of 100,000 a century ago due to poaching and a shrinking natural habitat. Despite these lower numbers, India is still home to over half of the world’s tiger population and supporters of the ban, brought to the court by an environmental activist, say strict action is needed to protect this community.
Critics of the ban, including some environmental groups, say it’s poachers who are the largest threat to tigers, not tourism, and better law enforcement could stop the problem.
For the country’s 41 state-run tiger reserves, who began their season earlier this month, the effects of the ban have been huge. Although tourists can still look for tigers in buffer zones – or forests closer to inhabited land – it is harder to see them in these peripheral areas and many visitors are preferring to stay at home.
The ban could make a huge dent in the parks’ around $18 million annual revenues. An official at India’s tourism ministry declined to comment on the implications of the order.
Some parks, especially those that have larger core areas and smaller buffer zones, like Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthanand Madhya Pradesh’s Kanha National Park, alreadyare reporting almost no tourism at all.
“The last few weeks have been devastating,” says Balendu Singh, a senior official at Ranthambore. The reserve, which attracted over 200,000 tourists last year “has not sold a single ticket,” since it opened earlier this month, he added.
Earnings, as a result, have touched an “all time-low.” In the last two weeks alone, the park, home to 31 tigers, lost revenues worth 3.6 million rupees, Mr. Singh notes. Earnings are not the only cause of concern for officials at the popular wildlife sanctuary.
A recent report by Tiger Watch, a Mumbai-based wildlife non-profit organization, estimates that about 3,900 locals near Ranthambore – from hotel managers to travel guides – depend entirely on tourism and hospitality for their livelihoods.
Mr. Singh fears the order, if made permanent on Tuesday, would “destroy thousands of livelihoods” and effectively “kill tourism” in the locality.
Things are no different at Kanha National Park, home to 60 tigers, which opens for the season on Tuesday. Bookings, says Jasbir Singh Chauhan, the reserve’s field director, are down on previous years. “Lodges and travel agents have been complaining about lack of business, rather no business, for weeks,” he says.
Chitvan Jungle Lodge, a Kanha-based wildlife resort, for instance, earned close to a million rupees from 270 bookings in October last year. This October, however, the lodge is “absolutely empty,” says Manjeet Sharma, an employee of an Indian tour operator which owns the lodge.
Some travel agents say there’s talk the Supreme Court Tuesday may relax its ban to allow tourism in a fifth of core areas. But even this wouldn’t lead to a pick-up in tourism this year, says Mr. Sharma. That’s largely because tourists, particularly foreign travelers, plan their trip months in advance. “We’re anticipating the worst,” he adds.
Not all wildlife reserves will be drastically affected by the court’s final ruling, particularly those that already have independently banned tourism in core areas. These include popular reserves like Uttarakhand’s Jim Corbett National Park and Assam’s Kaziranga Wildlife Reserve, scheduled to open in mid-October and early November, respectively.
Both these parks have larger buffer areas than Ranthambore and Kanha. Tourists can still sometimes see tigers in these buffer zones despite the closure of the core areas.
In Jim Corbett, for instance, 95% of the park’s core area is already off-limits for visitors, says R.K. Mishra, the reserve’s field director. Still, travel agents point to a substantial dip in bookings for the year.
Rohit Manuja, the general secretary of Indian Voyage, a New Delhi-based travel agency, says his firm has received close to 500 bookings for Jim Corbett this season versus over 1,200 bookings the firm had received by this time last year.
Why the sharp plunge when parks like Corbett and Kaziranga will be largely unaffected by the court’s decision?
“Tourists are in great confusion, sometimes even mislead by reports on the ban,” explains Raj Sharma of Garhwal Himalayan Expedition, an agency specializing in travel packages across tiger reserves.
Travelers – domestic and foreign – are unaware that the ban is limited to core zones of a reserve, according to Mr. Sharma. He adds that his foreign clientele, most of whom cancelled their bookings this season, believed the court had imposed a blanket ban on tourism in reserves altogether. “It’s not their fault… That’s how the Indian media sensationalized the issue,” Mr. Singh claims.
Click here to read a detailed break up of how tourism in popular parks is affected by the order.
Click here to read more about the ongoing-debate around the order.