New Delhi, (IANS) Coming to the rescue of tigers in the country, the Supreme Court Tuesday banned tourism in core areas of the 41 tiger reserves.
Tour operators, however, expressed unhappiness over the court order and said they will file a review petition.
A bench of Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla said that till final directions were issued by the court, the core zones in the tiger reserves will not be used for tourism.
The apex court was hearing a petition filed by Bhopal-based NGO Prayatna, demanding a ban on tourism in core areas of tiger reserves and allowing it only in the buffer areas spread up to 10 km around the critical habitats of the big cats.
There are 1,706 tigers in 41 tiger reserves spread in 19 states in the country.
The court slammed Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Arunachal Pradesh for not notifying the buffer and core areas in tiger reserves in their states.
The court asked these states to pay Rs.10,000 each as fine and notify the core and buffer areas within three weeks.
“The court has banned tourism in core areas in tiger reserves and will hear the matter now on Aug 22,” said Wasim Kadri, counsel of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
The NTCA submitted the final guidelines regulating tourism in tiger reserves. The apex court will examine the guidelines Aug 22.
Welcoming the order, Ajay Dubey of Prayatna said that there should be controlled tourism in tiger reserves to protect the big cats.
“There are only 1,706 tigers left in the country and we want responsible and accountable tourism in the tiger reserves. We are satisfied with the court order but want penalties for states failing to follow the order,” Dubey told IANS.
A statement issued by Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT) India said: “We are devastated with the Supreme Court’s decision and will file for a review of petition in the interest of the forests of India, conservation of the tiger population and livelihood of many bordering forest communities.”
“We are perplexed that the Supreme Court has chosen to disregard the clear evidence that proves that wildlife tourism within reserves is not harming tigers. The highest densities of tigers can be found today in the most heavily visited tiger reserves including Corbett (Uttarakhand), Kaziranga (Assam) and Bandhavgarh (Madhya Pradesh),” it said.