Tigers and Tourism

Posted by: Bittu Sahgal on

The buzz is that ALL tourism in core areas of tigers reserves should be banned. That would be downright stupid.

I am a major votary of heavier wildlife tourism regulation, particularly on the establishment of lodges right outside reserves that turn forests into bazaars tha rob the dignity of visitors, as they endanger wildlife. Corbett is a classic example of this kind of malpractice. But wildlife tourism could also be one of our most powerful conservation tools if properly implemented.

Can you imagine Nagarahole, Ranthambhore, Sundarbans, Kaziranga, Periyar, Corbett, or Bandhavgarh with BLANKET restrictions imposed on "uncooperative" people who would be prevented from witnessing or reporting on any of a range of problems from tiger deaths to timber felling, to ill-advised (but lucrative for crooked officials) construction in the heart of the forest? We need a protocol whereby transparency is guaranteed by allowing inspections (for members of a forest committee appointed by both State and Centre) of the ENTIRE forest area -- including the inviolate core -- at least once a week. This committee, headed by the Field Directmay include a local lodge owner, a journalist and members from a national panel that would include all members of the NBWL, NTCA, the State Wildlife Advisory Committee and known conservationists. Even if the move proves unpopular with an official or two, it must e done so that the implementation of conservation laws and rules is not only just, but is SEEN to be just. If tourism is banned, poachers and crooked officials will rule the violated roost.