In recent years, India has seen a dramatic increase in the number of high-end ecotourism facilities around tiger reserves and an accompanying increase in the numbers of tourists. This has caused a degradation of fragile tiger habitat and last year a local NGO filed a public interest petition to the Supreme Court, aimed at curtailing tourist numbers.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that there is to be no tourism in the “core” areas of tiger reserves.
Additionally, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has recently completed ecotourism guidelines that require all hotels and resorts within a 5km radius of 600 plus tiger reserves, national parks and sanctuaries to pay a minimum 10% of their annual turnover as a conservation fee.
However, in a move to assist with livelihood generation through community based ecotourism, local home-stays will be exempt from the conservation charge. The funds generated from the conservation fee will be used “by states on conservation of forest resources, managing human-wildlife conflict and generating livelihood for local communities”.
According to the Deccan Herald, some local tourism operators and conservationists argue that it is not helpful to remove the source of revenue generation that helps in the tiger conservation. However, they do agree on the need to regulate the flow tourist traffic within the reserves and to reduce the waste material generated. A prominent tiger biologist suggests that “care should be taken to ensure that the non-commercial and educational values of nature tourism and public support to conservation they generate are not lost sight of”.
What are your thoughts? Do you think these new guidelines, conservation charges and restrictions will be effective at improving tiger conservation outcomes?