Supreme Court order to give Corbett Park tigers breathing space

Dehradun : Even as Travel Operators for Tigers and a former forest and environment advisor, A Baluni are getting ready to file a review petition in the Supreme Court against the recent ban by the apex court on tourism in the core areas of all the 39 tiger reserves across the country, the decree by the highest court has been generally welcomed by wild life activists for it would bring much-needed relief to wildlife in Corbett Park in general and tigers in particular.

However in Uttarakhand which is home to the Corbett National Park that has a number of tigers, the order is being seen as a setback in official circles.

Highways through Tiger reserves

Not only because of the fact that about two lakh tourists visit the Park including its core areas annually, but the order will also deprive the fund starved state exchequer of this small mountain state of Rs 500 crores every year. This amount comes as fees from tourists and tour operators.

It is a well known secret that the core areas of the Corbett National Park have been literally raped by a section of the bureaucrats, politicians and even the Park authorities who are hand-in-glove with the state forest department staff.

A metalled road has been allowed to come up within the Park area in violation of all norms and now the buck is being passed to ensure that no one is accountable for its construction.

In the buffer zone of the Park area, a number of resorts and hotels have been allowed to come up and there is open violation of construction rules which prevents building houses in forest area and change of land use.

But this looks good only on paper as even a minister in the Vijay Bahuguna cabinet has a resort in the buffer zone.

Though concerned organizations, companies and individuals are greatly concerned of the dwindling number of tigers, whose numbers have now been put at a little over 1700 and have pooled in crores in their bid to save the tiger, authorities in Uttarakhand have conveniently looked the other way as far as preservation and conservation of the feline is concerned.

Resting tiger in Corbett reserve: Photo by Anoop H

It is well known that as over 20 tigers have died in the Corbett and its adjoining forest areas during the last one year and the National Tiger Conservation Authority has slammed the authorities for this, but that has not rung a bell as far as the Park authorities are concerned.

Constructions in the buffer zone have even closed the corridors meant for tiger movement in the Park and adjoining forest areas.

Tourists throng the core areas of Corbett, comprising Dhikala, Bijrani, Jhirna, Phaltu Paani and Kalagrah areas and with the music blaring in their vehicles are known to disturb not only the big cats, but other wildlife also.

However, as they provide revenue to the state coffers, the state government is more concerned of the moolah than the wild animals.

The Corbett National Park is spread over an area of 1288 sq kms, including the 301 sq kms of the Sona Nadi Vanjeev Vihar.

Of this 821 sq kms comprises the core area of the Park, while the remaining 467 sq kms is the buffer zone. The core area is so called, as it is expected that no such activity will take place in that area which will disturb the environs of the wild animals

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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