Today’s Supreme Court judgement is good news, with the present ban being lifted on wildlife tourism that was imposed in July.
“The ban has ensured the airing of a range of opinions that this highly contentious topic, produced some Ecotourism guidelines to stop poor tourism, but has also badly affected hundreds of thousands of local livelihoods, and legitimate businesses, both directly or indirectly. It’s now time to get back to work, to ensure that revenues that flow through park fees back into conservation and communities start flowing again, that livelihoods are restored, and legitimate businesses are allowed to continue to show India’s very best natural heritage to its citizens.” says TOFT India Director Vishal Singh.
For a decade TOFT has been calling for better and more visionary guidelines for nature tourism, that take into account evidence based science, park geography, ground reality, carry capacity and community and management issues, and drawing on the best of practices and experiences from around the world. Only time will tell whether this ban and its new prescriptive guidelines will help solve the issues created by the boom in nature tourism within India best known parks.
“My real concern now is for forests, infact 97% of India’s remaining forest landscape, which today remains unloved, unprotected and unknown, and is increasingly devoid of wildlife, overgrazed and exploited. Sadly there is nothing in these guidelines that gives anyone, the MOEF, communities or nature tourism, a legal ‘road map’ as to how they can be restored, restocked and revitalised. That to me is a real sadness and a real missed opportunity.” says the TOFT Chairman, Julian Matthews.
TOFT hopes that this ban and its heated debates, has helped to focus every stakeholder, from Panchayat heads to Field Directors, from park guides to lodge owners, to work together, and in far greater harmony, with great inclusion and partnership, to save more of India’s precious jungles and wildlife over the coming years.