India's Bengal Tiger.
www.flickr.com user RobRyb
Last month, I wrote about the temporary ban on tourism in the core areas of 42 tiger reserves in India, issued by the Supreme Court.
The Court made the ban in response to National Tiger Conservation Authority guidelines, which recommended it. Yet, the reaction has been largely negative.
From the time the ban was issued in late July, around three dozen applications have been filed in the Court by states and stakeholders, all seeking to lift it. The question is being asked, can India really afford a blanket ban on tiger tourism? Government revenue generated from some tiger reserves is quite huge.
In Madhya Pradesh, which has three of the most popular reserves in India -- Kanha, Pench and Bandhavgarh -- revenue from entry fees alone amounts to 15 crore rupees a year. This jumps up to 150-200 crore rupees a year when the amount spent by tourists on entire packages is taken into account. Plus, tourism supports the local population in remote areas. This is hard to ignore.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided to extend the ban for another month, until September 27, when it will hear the case again -- particularly petitions from stakeholders seeking the removal of the ban.
According to this news report, the Court seems to have softened its stance, stating that it's not adverse to "regulated tourism" in the core areas of the tiger reserves. Apparently, it's asked the National Tiger Conservation Authority to submit revised guidelines for eco-tourism in the reserves, after consultation with stakeholders. Hence, there's a good chance that the ban will be removed.
The deadline is an important one, as national parks in India open again at the beginning of October, after the monsoon season is over.