SC lifts ban on tourism in core tiger reserve areas

Tourist activity alone will not adversely affect big cats

SC lifts ban on tourism in core tiger reserve areas

 The Supreme Court on Tuesday lifted its ban on tourism in core tiger reserve areas after the Centre notified fresh guidelines allowing tourism activity in up to 20 per cent of the protected area.

A bench of Justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar directed all state governments to submit within six months their tiger conservation plan as mandated under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

The bench, however, refused to take a call on the guidelines submitted in court on September 26 saying whosoever felt aggrieved could challenge them. “We make it clear that we have not held the guidelines either intra vires (within legal authority) or ultra vires (beyond legal authority),” it said.

The court modified its order passed on July 24 as an interim measure, considering the new guidelines notified by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) on Monday.
The court had then said that till further orders, no tourists should venture into core zones of 41 tiger reserves.

In a change of stand, the fresh guidelines had said, “Current tourism zones where only tourist visits are permitted and there are no consumptive uses, tiger density and recruitment does not seem to be impacted. Hence, permitting up to 20 per cent of the core/critical tiger habitat as a tourism zone should not have an adverse effect on the tiger biology needs.”

In its order on Tuesday, the court said: “Now that the guidelines for tourism in and around tiger reserves have been notified by the NTCA, we modify the interim order dated July 24 and direct that henceforth tourism activities will strictly be in accordance with guidelines. All authorities concerned will ensure that the guidelines are strictly in accordance with notification and requirements of guidelines are complied with before commencing tourism.”

The court refused to allow a request by Additional Solicitor General Jaisingh that it should not be overtly said in the order that the guidelines were open to challenge since it could contradict the other directive that everyone had to strictly comply with these guidelines.
“No, we have to make this clear because we have not gone into the correctness of these guidelines. We had made it clear even on the last date that we are not going to comment on the validity of these guidelines and hence it is open for challenge if the law permits,” the court said.

The core zone is 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.

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