Rest houses to be out of bounds for tourists soon

Rest houses to be out of bounds for tourists soon

SC Shocker: A heritage forest rest house in Arekeri, under Mattigodu Forest Range, Nagarahole National Park, in Kodagu district. The house was constructed in 1923-24. DH Photo/T R Sathish Kumar

The officials of the reserve forests and protected areas are out to make the rest houses and the inspection bungalows (IBs) out of bounds for the tourists.

This comes in the wake of the July 5 Supreme Court ruling. The apex court bench, comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, gave its approval to the guidelines prepared by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), and ratified by the Union government, to prevent misuse of forest rest houses and IBs.

The forest officials are out to implement the SC order despite no circular/order by the competent authority.

The court ordered, rest houses and IBs located within forest areas, including protected areas, shall not be transferred to private and commercial entities in the name of the public-private partnership or by whatever names such an arrangement is called for promotion of any form of tourism including eco- tourism.

The apex court also noted that these properties were created for camping of forest officials to discharge their duties connected with conservation, protection and management of forests. The orders were issued in consultation with the Central Empowered Committee.

“In many premises inside the forests, tourists are not allowed, but they are used by influentials, politicians extensively. We are now discussing on identifying and notifying what falls under (definition of) rest houses, guest houses, inspection bunglows and tourism properties. The SC orders will be examined in detail and then they will be re-defined. Check is required as many forest properties fall under tourism zones,” said a senior forest department official.

According to forest department records there are 163 rest houses in Karnataka, which are located in urban and forest patches. The list includes those in Nagarhole and Bandipur Tiger Reserves, Chikkamagaluru and Madikere forests and those in Haliyal, Karwar and Honnavar.

Praveen Bhargav, Trustee, Wildlife First, said that the SC order, directing that forest rest houses should not be transferred to commercial entities for any form of tourism including ‘ecotourism’, is most welcome. “In places like K Gudi in BRT Reserve, Bhagawati in Kudremukh where it has already been given out it must now be taken back. The earlier order, dated October 16, 2012, directed that the NTCA Guidelines on Tourism – which included shifting of all tourism infrastructure from Core/Critical Tiger Habitat – must be strictly followed. However, there is no compliance as yet,” he said.

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