The Union Government’s report on tiger reserves will not affect Sabarimala pilgrimage and tourism activities in core forest areas as the Forest Department had already prepared the guidelines to preserve the area.
Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had submitted a report to the Supreme Court for restricting pilgrims in forest core areas and allowing tourism activities in 20 per cent of the reserve area. As Sabarimala is on the buffer zone of the forest reserve, there is no need for any restriction here.
Forest officials pointed out that the Department is yet to assess if 20 per cent of the area is used for tourism purpose. If more tourism activities are allowed in Periyar Tiger Reserve, it is likely to damage the ecosystem.
Sources said that the tourism activities in tiger reserves are planned according to the guidelines prepared by the Forest Department. Tourism was not allowed in any of the core areas of the forest, they pointed out.
“Any development activities in the tiger reserve are planned according to the Tiger Conservation Plan. The report of the Environment Ministry is to preserve the tiger reserves in other parts of the country, where there are no specific guidelines for allowing tourism activities,” they said. When poaching incidents increased, an Eco-Development Committee (EDC) had been formed in the tiger reserve with the inclusion of those engaged in illegal trading of forest goods. The EDC was functioning efficiently to conserve the forest and protect animals.
According to the animal census of the Forests and Wildlife conducted last year, there are 24 tigers in the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Another census has started to find out whether the population of tigers has increased or decreased, forest officials said. However, the Forest Department is of the view that some infrastructure facilities for tourists can be developed in the tiger reserve. Concrete buildings and resorts are likely to create an imbalance to the environment and endangered spices will be badly affected. Last month, the Supreme Court had banned tourism activities in the core areas of tiger reserves and directed to submit a report on the same.