Save tiger: Govt to erase tourism footprint

In a new set of directives, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has instructed tiger reserves across the country to put a stop to all "disturbances" in critical tiger areas. To keep tourism at bay — the ultimate aim being to stop it for good in core areas — there is now a ban on signboards, foundation stones and other landmarks meant for the human eyes in these sensitive zones.

"Since the core areas are meant to be kept inviolate for tigers, artefacts like foundation stones, commemorative exhibits, signages, should not be installed at any cost," the directives say, also calling for a ban on the entry of tourist jeeps, trucks and lorries in these areas. 'Core' areas in this context are defined as critical zones in tiger reserves where no human population is permitted as per a 2006 Amendment in the Wildlife Protection Act.

In addition, amid reports that donations from individuals were being used to carry out various 'projects', the NTCA has ordered, "No individual can prescribe field activities in tiger reserves". It has also directed official forest staff to intervene to a "minimum" in core areas. The idea is to minimise all interference— whether 'official', through the forest department, or unofficial, through outside agencies.

To preserve the core area, the NTCA will now rely on the wisdom of the Supreme Court, and not the discretion of state forest departments. The directive states: "No outside agency will be allowed any field activity in the core area without prior permission from the apex court."

While all tiger reserves have designated 'tourism zones', several of these continue to overlap with core tiger areas despite the 2006 Amendment.

The ultimate aim now is to phase out all tourist activities in core areas, an ambitious task by any standard. In order to keep core tiger areas inviolate, villages — there are hundreds left here — are being moved out, with each adult villager getting a Rs 10-lakh rehabilitation package.

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