Thursday, August 10, 2017

RTI activist moves HC over excessive tourism in Tadoba

Times of India: Nagpur: Thursday, August 10, 2017.
Citing various TOI reports on excessive tourism in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in gross violation of ecotourism norms, an RTI activist moved the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court praying for directives to slap a Rs10 lakh penalty on every respondent and that the money should be recovered from the erring forest officials. Holding them responsible for violating Supreme Court's guidelines, the petitioner demanded that the recovered amount be deposited with the Tiger Conservation Foundation (TCF).
A division bench comprising justices Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Arun Upadhye, on Wednesday, issued notices to respondents which included National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), forest secretary, PCCF (wildlife) and MoEFCC secretary, asking them to reply within three weeks.
The PIL is filed on several TOI reports based on RTI replies of last year on how the TATR violated ecotourism guidelines issued by NTCA in pursuance of with apex court's directives. The reply mentioned that a large number of VIP vehicles entered Tadoba in the last two years and NTCA, which monitors all tiger reserves in the country, seems to be turning a blind eye to these violations.
Petitioner Avinash Prabhune through counsels Tushar Mandlekar and Rohan Malviya contended that despite the top court directing tiger reserves to stop overcrowding and NTCA subsequently asking the parks to stick to its carrying capacity, there is no restraint in TATR which allowed a large number of VIP vehicles.
According to him, though excess vehicles entering the park is an open secret, the list of VIPs also include several businessmen who have been frequently getting entry in Tadoba. For avoiding irregularities in safari booking, NTCA has specified online and transparent booking procedure which is not being followed. Instead of making all cancelled bookings available to wait-listed tourists, they become discretionary quota of the park management.
NTCA has specifically stated that one canter equals to three gypsies and carrying capacity also includes the bus and canters, but this formula has never been considered, thus exceeding carrying capacity of the park, Prabhune pointed out.
NTCA had warned Maharashtra Govt
Based on TOI reports, the NTCA on August 4, 2016 had written to chief secretary stating that state forest department had failed to submit proper and correct tiger conservation Plan (TCP) of TATR as mandated under Section 38V of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 despite several communications by NTCA. The letter also stated that a senior official from NTCA office had visited TATR and submitted detailed report with recommendations for TCP vide a letter September 30, 2015.
The NTCA further highlighted that state was giving primacy to tourism which was detrimental to long-term tiger conservation. The state blatantly violated guidelines issued under Section 38O of the Wildlife (Protection) Act & guidelines issued in pursuance of the SC directions.