SC bans tourism in core tiger areas

FP

Concerned that the tiger is "on the verge of extinction" in India, the Supreme Court today imposed an absolute ban on tourism in core (critical) areas of tiger reserves.

Slamming the "failure" of states to segregate core and buffer (peripheral) areas in their reserves, the court ordered that the core areas be kept out of bounds for tourists till it finalises guidelines for such protected areas. Tourists can now enter only the buffer or fringe areas.

India has approximately 1,700 tigers left.

The core area is the central part of a reserve and should have minimal human disturbance. The buffer zone usually constitutes fringe areas up to a distance of 10 km from the core.

"Whatever may the statistics or data... the fact of the matter is that tigers are on the verge of extinction... till final directions are issued by this court with respect to the guidelines by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the core areas in tiger reserves will not be used for tourism," said a Bench of Justices Swatanter Kumar and Ibrahim Kalifulla.

Accepting the suggestion by amicus curiae Raj Panjwani, the court made it clear that it will vet the guidelines and propose a framework, which the Centre will notify. The court was hearing a PIL by conservationist Ajay Dubey.

In April, the Supreme Court had directed 10 states to notify the buffer areas. It noted today that Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh had failed to file their affidavits. It gave the states three weeks to file their affidavits.

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