New Delhi: In an unprecedented order, the Supreme Court has ruled that no tourism will be allowed in core areas of tiger reserves. The decision means that no tourists will be allowed in Ranthambore, Corbett and Kanha till the Supreme Court gives final order.
According to the Supreme Court order, no tourists will be allowed into the parks starting Wednesday. However, Corbett and Ranthambore have already shut down after the decision.
Most parks in the country are currently closed because of monsoon.
If the final order by the Supreme Court fails to come by September, the entire tourism industry will be severely affected.
It will also affect the livelihood of people dependant on tourism like jeep owners, guides and naturalists.
A bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and Ibrahim Kalifulla warned of initiation of contempt proceedings and imposition of exemplary costs on states which fail to notify the buffer zones in their respective tiger reserves.
The apex court said several states despite its earlier directions of April 4 and July 10 had failed to notify the buffer zones in their respective reserves.
The states were asked to regulate commercialisation of revenue land around big cat habitats and help preserve them.
If they fail to comply within three weeks, the defaulting states shall be saddled with a cost of Rs 50,000 each, recoverable from the Principal Secretary, Forest of the state concerned, the court directed.
The apex court also imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 each on Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra and Jharkhand for not complying with its directions.
Under relevant sections of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the states have to notify the list of core and buffer areas of tiger reserves under their respective jurisdiction.
Under the Act, buffer zones are the areas which lie in the periphery of core areas also known as critical tiger habitats. Tiger breeding takes place in core areas which are meant to be kept free of any disturbance, including tourism.
The buffer zones constitute the fringe areas of tiger reserves up to a distance of 10 km. There are an estimated over 1,700 tigers in the country.
"We make it clear that till final directions are issued by this court, the core zones or core areas in the tiger reserves will not be used for tourism," the bench said in its order.
However, counsel for Arunachal Pradesh and Jharkhand stated that they were ready with the notification and would file appropriate affidavits.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by conservationist Ajay Dubey demanding removal of commercial tourism activities from core areas in the tiger reserves.
(With Additional Inputs from PTI)