New Delhi: Madhya Pradesh government today pleaded before the Supreme Court that the Centre`s guidelines for regulating tourism in tiger reserves should be modified to meet the local condition for effective implementation.
Appearing for the state, Additional Solicitor General Vivek Tankha contended that the government has no problem in implementing the guidelines in spirit but not possible to follow it in letter.
"The guidelines should not be straight jacket but site specific," he contended before a bench of justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar.
He alleged that it would be difficult to regulate visitors in Pachmarhi Tiger Reserve as per the guidelines as people there do not go for seeing tigers but to visit a temple which is situated in the core area of the national park.
The bench after hearing his arguments said that the state government might be allowed to adept guidelines according to the local condition but they have to be approved by the Centre.
In the fresh guidelines formulated for states following the apex court`s interim ban imposed on July 24 on all tourist activities in the core areas of areas of tiger reserves, the government said that to protect the tiger population, no new tourism infrastructure should be created.
The Centre said that a maximum of 20 percent of the core/ critical tiger habitat usage (not exceeding the present usage) may be permitted for regulated, low-impact tourist visitation.
The guidelines said permanent tourist facilities located inside core/critical tiger habitats, which are being used for wildlife tourism should be phased out as per a time frame.
Among other measures, the guidelines said that visitors should be kept at a distance of at least 20 m from all forms of wildlife and luring/feeding any wildlife should be strictly prohibited.
Under the existing guidelines and rules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the states have to notify the list of core and buffer areas of tiger reserves in their respective jurisdictions.
Buffer zones are the areas which lie in the periphery of the core areas also known as critical tiger habitats. Tiger breeding takes place in core areas which are meant to be kept free of any disturbance, including tourism.
The buffer zones constitute the fringe areas of tiger reserves up to a distance of 10 km. The number of tigers in the country are estimated to be over 1,700.