The Supreme Court on Tuesday banned all tourism activities in the core areas of all tiger reserves in the country.
A bench of Justices Swatanter Kumar and F M I Kalifullah said no tourists should venture into the core zones of 41 tigers reserves till further orders.
“Whatever may be the statistics or data by different agencies, the fact of the matter is tigers are on the verge of extinction,” the court said, highlighting the threat posed to the endangered species.
The number of tigers in the country has been estimated at 1,700.
The core zone is a critical tiger habitat notified by the government where no human activity is allowed. Tiger breeding takes place in the core areas which are to be kept free of any human activities, including tourism, according to the apex court.
Tthe bench said, “We make it clear that till further directions are made by the court with respect to the guidelines submitted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), core zone/area in Tiger reserves will not be used for tourism.”
The order came on a PIL filed by Bhopal-based activist Ajay Dubey seeking direction to remove all commercial tourism activities from the core areas in the tiger reserves. The court had earlier issued notices to 13 states asking them to submit affidavits explaining their stand on permitting tourism in the core areas and also over notification to create buffer zones. Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand were fined Rs 10,000 as cost for failing to respond.
Giving them three weeks to respond, the bench warned that if they failed to respond again, principal secretary, forest, of each erring State would be imposed Rs 50,000 as cost. The officers would face contempt of court proceedings as well.
According to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the states are to notify the list of core and buffer areas of tiger reserves. The buffer zone is constituted up to a distance of 10 km of the core zone.
The NTCA of the Ministry of Environment and Forest on July 9 submitted draft guidelines, which would be examined by the apex court on August 22.