Ordering an immediate ban on all tourism activities in the core areas of tiger reserves, parks and sanctuaries, the Supreme Court on Tuesday set a three-week deadline for all those States which are yet to notify the core and buffer areas to put their act together. The Court threatened to initiate contempt proceedings and impose a cost of `50,000 on the Environment Secretary concerned of the State which fails to comply with its order.
The order has virtually sounded the death knell for tourism activities thriving in core areas of tiger reserves. The bench of Justices Swatanter Kumar and FM Ibrahim Kalifulla said, “Till final directions of the Court, core areas in tiger reserves will not be used for tourism activities.”
Hailing the SC order, Union Environment and Forests Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said, “I will personally write to all Chief Ministers asking them to strictly follow the apex court directive.”
Wondering why tourism activities should be permitted in core areas of tiger habitats, the bench said, “The effect we can see is that tigers are virtually on the verge of extinction. You will only have statistics to count upon.”
It came down hard against States which delayed issuing the necessary notification of core and buffer areas under Wildlife Protection Act 1972. These States included Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Under Section 38-V (4) of the Act, core or critical tiger habitat is defined as areas “where it has been established on the basis of scientific and objective criteria, that such areas are required to be kept as inviolate for the purposes of tiger conservation”. While law prohibits tourist activities in the core zone, in practice, tourism thrives in core areas across all tiger habitats.
The bench, hearing the PIL filed by conservationist Ajay Dube, failed to understand how its earlier orders passed on April 3 and July 10 this year asking States to notify the core and buffer boundaries were taken casually by all States except Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan, that reported full compliance. The non-complying states were fined `10,000 for scant regard of Court orders.
Senior advocate Raj Panjwani, who assisted the Court as amicus curiae, expressed satisfaction over the order passed. Further, he asked the Court to approve the guidelines framed by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) on Ecotourism that has attempted to balance the fragile ecosystem of forests with the extent to carry out tourism in tiger reserves. The Court decided to determine this issue on August 22, the next date of hearing.
Drone will combat poachers
A pilotless aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will keep a vigil on the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) where animals are in disarray after a large part of the world famous sanctuary was flooded, and also to help deal with poaching. Secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Rajesh Gopal, said here today the step has been taken after a team of the authority, which would fund the project, conducted an aerial survey last week and found that the situation was critical with nearly the entire park flooded.
“We hope that this use of a pilotless aircraft will help tackle both flooding and poaching in and around the World Heritage Site Park,” Gopal said. NTCA will fund the project with the help of Assam Government’s Forest Department and it will be executed by Wildlife Institute of India.
The remote-controlled aircraft, which can fly over the park continuously for four hours, is sound-less, pollution free and will carry sophisticated, high power and high range cameras.
The aircraft will be pressed into service during any emergency or for any requirement of the park and it will click photographs within the forest area and outside.
“This will help the park authorities to know and trap any antisocial element trying to commit crime while before and during the floods, necessary precautionary measures can also be taken,” Gopal said.
Another team of experts will arrive here from New Delhi within a day or two for detailed survey and study.
During the floods, the animals usually move to the highlands in neighbouring Karbi Anglong district and the aircraft will also help the Park authorities in tracking and monitoring the animals, Gopal said.