BENGALURU: The state government’s new guidelines for private resorts, homestays, hotels, institutions and other entities, permits existing and recognised resorts to operate within the Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ) and revenue enclosures of Protected Areas (PAs). The order dated, August 10, came into immediate effect and is applicable to both wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.
The order outlines that eco-tourism should be encouraged as it is ecologically sustainable and is distinct from mass tourism and improves the living standards of local communities in revenue enclosures or fringes of protected areas. “These guidelines are to support the effective implementation of the provisions of Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), the guidelines issued under ESZ in and around PAs and also the Wilderness Tourism Policy, 2004 without violating existing statutes and orders of the High Court and Supreme Court,” the document states.
The activities that will be allowed now include trekking or nature walks through designated paths, temporary accommodation for tourists, guides, bird watching, study of flora and fauna, liquid and solid waste disposal after treatment to rivers and streams, and eco-tourism as per ESZ notification in these areas and in tiger reserves as per NTCA directives.
Speaking to Express, Chief Wildlife Warden C Jayaram said it is a reiteration of the existing policies and fully adheres to rules and court orders. “No new resorts will be allowed to come up in ESZs and areas close to the protected areas. ‘Recognised resorts’ means those that are existing already will be allowed to operate. However, new resorts will be allowed in enclosures, but far away from the protected areas,” he added.
Debunking the new guidelines, wildlife activists say that they are a total sellout to the tourism/real estate lobbies. Presently, there are many private resorts and homestays that are operating in revenue enclosures within PAs, be it Dandeli, Bhadra, Nagarhole or Bandipur, where all commercial tourism activities are regulated as per Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
They add, “Private resorts are not permitted to operate within PAs and their enclosures. However, the latest order dilutes this provision and will have wide-ranging detrimental effects on the protection of wildlife.”