The Supreme Courts interim order banning tourism in core areas of tiger reserves has taken its toll on Pachmarhi,a picturesque hill station with its major attractions within the core area of Satpura tiger reserve.
Pachmarhi town itself falls within the buffer zone of the reserve but within the core are prime picnic spots. Even in the off-season,picnickers frequently flock to Dhoopgarh,B-Fall and Apsara Vihar and other spots.
Last week,forest authorities blocked picnickers citing the order. A forest officer said visitors were allowed to go to religious places another major draw in Pachmarhi but had to leave vehicles at the barriers.
Of the 1,339 sq km core area of Satpura reserve,the tourism zone comprises only 60.4 sq km,which has now been declared out of bounds for visitors.
Pachmarhi town will not be affected, said environmental activist Ajay Dubey,on whose petition the interim order has come,adding the rest will have to pay a small price in the interest of tiger conservation.
In April,the Supreme Court had directed Jharkhand,Rajasthan,Arunachal Pradesh,Andhra Pradesh,Uttar Pradesh,Tamil Nadu,Bihar,Karnataka and Maharashtra to notify their core and buffer areas. Only the first three of these states have done so,leading to the interim order.
Madhya Pradesh has already notified buffer zones in Kanha,Bandhavgarh,Pench,Satpura and Sanjay parks but not in Panna,apparently because of the clout wielded by the mining lobby and a section of the local population.
The state government had been arguing against a buffer zone in Panna on the ground that it would affect the tiger recovery programme that was put into effect after the park had lost all its tigers. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan,too,had declared after a visit to Panna in 2010 that he would not let the parks buffer zone be notified because the local population was strongly against it. Dubey said the file had been pending with Chouhan for more than a month with bureaucrats writing to him with a request to clear it.
Chouhan on Monday met Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan in New Delhi and sought her intervention,saying the Supreme Court verdict would affect the livelihood of thousands of people who live in and around the forests. Their livelihood is as important as conservation of tigers,he stressed,adding that tourism in forests will not affect the wildlife there.
(With ENS,New Delhi)