News has surfaced that tourists might be banned from visiting the
tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh and other parts of the country, as efforts are
being made to preserve the last few of this once dominant species.
Madhya Pradesh has some of the largest and most visited tiger
reserves in the country. The state witnesses numerous tourists who visit its
tiger reserves in the winter season. Apart from providing a huge impetus to tourism
in the state, this has become a major issue of concern for the tigers residing
in its wilderness.
The Key Issue
Prayatna, a Bhopal based NGO, has filed a “Special Leave Petition”
to ban tourism in tiger reserves, raising concerns over the travel operators
trespassing through the core areas that are prohibited for the public. This has
triggered panic in the State Tourism Department and the travel operators
association, as it could be a huge blow to them.
A move from the Supreme Court can also affect thousands of
livelihoods that solely depend on tourism in and around the jungles. Analysts
predict that, if this law comes into effect; it could encourage other activists
to carry out similar approaches in other portions of the country.
However, this could come as a huge relief to the black striped
wild yellow cats as their population is shrinking day by day since the last 100
years. The numbers of tigers were 40,000 in the early years of the last century
compared to a meager 1706 now.
Reactions From Different Communities
The alarming decrease in the number of tigers recently has raised
a huge concern among activists, ecologists and the government. However, TOTF
(Tigers India Wildlife Association) and hoteliers who provide tourism packages
have come out in major protest against this ban and have labeled it as
“frivolous without any sound scientific evidence and highly irrational”. They
say that nearly 20,000 to 30,000 people who earn their livelihoods due to this
project will be jobless and would cut down the revenue earned by the hotels and
the state tourism department.
The Other Side of the Argument
It is also a proven fact that tourism in these areas brings about
vigil and helps in maintaining tight security in the area, preventing poachers
and other miscreants from disrupting the wildlife. The hoteliers and travel
package owners are usually the first ones to know about any such activities
going on and inform the authorities.
The Madhya Pradesh High Court’s principal
bench had earlier rejected this PIL after which the NGO took it to the Supreme
Court. Many officials also say that the consequences of implementing this law
might be grave, as it would alienate the local community from the government.
The “Save the Tiger” project has kicked off in other states such
as Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Uttar
Pradesh as well.