13 September 2012
Nitin Sethi, New Delhi: Another panel has been set up by the ministry of environment and forests to decide eco-tourism guidelines in core areas and peripheral buffer zones of tiger reserves, and submit a report within 10 days.
The panel's creation comes on the back of ministry's commitment to the Supreme Court that it would review its proposed norms on eco-tourism and get back to the SC with a final version by September 29.
The new panel includes two wildlife scientists K Ullas Karanth and Wildlife Institute of India's Y V Jhala. Also, there are Brijendra Singh, considered close to the Gandhi family and a member of the National Board of Wildlife, Raghu Chundawat, a tiger expert and a resort-owner in Madhya Pradesh, Shekhar Dattari a wildlife filmmaker, Swathi Sheshadri of Equations, an NGO that works on tourism, Tushar Das of NGO Vasundhra, which works on tribal rights, and Arun Bhatnagar, a retired bureaucrat. In addition, the committee will have representatives from tribal affairs, tourism and panchayati raj ministries, besides chief wildlife wardens of MP, UP, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Assam.
The member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority will serve as convener on the committee.
The committee been tasked to "prepare a comprehensive set of guidelines for tiger conservation and tourism as provided in section 380 (c) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972". It has been asked to keep all existing laws in mind, including the Forest Rights Act, while drawing up the guidelines.
While the apex court had put a complete but interim ban on tourism in the core of tiger reserves, the ministry had earlier recommended only partial tourism in the core run by communities. The ministry's suggestions had a rider. It sought to put stringent conditions including a cess on revenues of the resorts around tiger reserves to fund conservation. Several tour operators and resort owners had opposed both the court's interim order and government guidelines. Several states, too, had opposed a complete ban.