Activists Write To Minister Against New Tiger Tourism Norms

02 October 2012
 
New Delhi: Two members of a National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) panel set up to frame tiger tourism norms have written to the government raising concerns over the draft submitted to the Supreme Court.
 
Committee members Swati Seshadri of EQUATIONS (Equitable Tourism Options) and Tushar Dash from NGO Vasundhra, in a letter to Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, said NTCA director Rajesh Gopal did not include their note of dissent in the documents submitted to the court Sep 26.
 
"The dissent note was not included in the final guidelines despite writing to Gopal in advance," they said in a three-page letter, a copy of which is with IANS.
 
The members appealed to Natarajan to ensure inclusion of their note in the case hearing Wednesday.
 
According to them, the guidelines assume that the identification of core and buffer areas in tiger reserves is complete when NTCA itself states that it neither has any overall guidelines for this purpose nor can it certify that this was done in accordance with the law.
 
"The guidelines submitted to the court make no mention of the questions related to demarcation of core and buffer area and treat the matter settled. We take serious objection to this effective endorsement of prior illegal actions, which have led to harassment, eviction of local communities and violation of law," the letter said.
 
The members said the committee suggested that in order finalise guidelines on fixation of core and buffer areas, it was vital to hold further consultation.
 
"Since the guidelines are going to have an impact on the rights of scheduled tribes and other forest dwellers the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, we would like to have your (Natarajan) intervention and ask NTCA to include our dissent note in the next hearing on Oct 3," it said.
 
The NTCA, which falls under the environment ministry, in an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court recommended 20 percent of critical habitat in 41 tiger reserves be opened for tourism, while also proposing that the tourism industry have its say in how funds collected through tourism are spent for tiger conservation.