Udhagamandalam: Protesting the closure of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR), following a Supreme Court order, shops remained shut and tourist jeeps were off the road in Masinagudi, Mavanallah and Vazhaithottam near Mudumalai on Friday. Traders and drivers while appealing to the forest department to take steps to reopen the tiger reserve, said that their livelihood depended on the flow of tourists. The forest officials had asked the drivers not to transport tourists from any place to Mudumalai as entry of visitors, sight seeing through vehicles and elephant rides have been banned at the MTR since Wednesday.
Around 100 shops were functioning mainly in Masinagudi and Mavanallah areas near Mudumalai catering to various needs of tourists. Around 80 jeeps were involved in transporting visitors from various areas to the MTR. Besides, a large number of cottages and resorts also operate in these places. Masinagudi and Mavanallah have now developed as towns due to sustained tourist flow. Tourists including foreigners used to stay at the resorts and visit the reserve for elephant safari. Many used to stay even at forest guest houses and Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation’s Youth Hostel in Mudumalai.
Since the SC directed that there should be no tourism activity in any of the core zones of tiger reserves across the country, the entire 321 sq km of MTR has been closed for tourists as it was a core zone. The buffer zone of MTR was yet to be notified by the authorities.
Traders protested the closure of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, following a Supreme Court order, on Friday.
According to sources, more than 2 lakh tourists visited the MTR annually as a result of which the government got an income of over `1 crore. Declared as Tiger Reserve in 2006, it also has a good elephant population besides Leopard, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, Wild Boar and Indian Guar.
Environmentalists here said that the apex court directive would be a boon to the department not only to prevent poaching and protect wildlife, but also to control the mushrooming growth of hotels and resorts which had already disturbed the wildlife.