New Delhi: Coming to the rescue of the big cat, the Supreme Court on Tuesday banned tourism in core areas of tiger reserves.
Resuming its hearing on the action taken by states to regulate commercialisation of revenue land around big cat habitats and help preserve the endangered species, the apex court slammed several states for failing to have notified buffer zones around tiger reserves.
“Why should tourism be allowed in core areas of tiger reserves,” a bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and Ibrahim Kalifulla asked, while noting the tiger was on the verge of extinction.
No tourism will be allowed in core areas of tiger reserves, the bench categorically said.
The bench also warned of contempt proceedings and imposition of exemplary costs on states which failed to notify the buffer zones in their respective tiger reserves.
"We make it clear that till final directions are issued by this court, the core zones or core areas in the tiger reserves will not be used for tourism," the bench said in its order.
The court slammed Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra and Jharkhand for failing to have notified the buffer zones despite earlier directions.
The SC also imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on each defaulting state.
However, counsel for Arunachal Pradesh and Jharkhand stated that they were ready with the notification and would file appropriate affidavits during the course of the day.
The SC further warned that if they (states) failed to comply within three weeks the defaulting states shall be saddled with a cost of Rs 50,000 each, recoverable from the Principal Secretary, Forest of the state concerned.
During the last hearing on July 10, the SC had granted two more weeks "as last opportunity" to states which had defaulted in notifying buffer zones around tiger reserves.
Rajasthan`s counsel had told the court during the last hearing that the state had already notified the zone.
On April 4, the apex court had asked Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra to notify the zones within three months.
Under Section 38(b) and Explanation 1 & 2 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the states have to notify the list of core and buffer areas of tiger reserves in their respective jurisdiction.
Under the Act, buffer zones are the areas peripheral to the critical tiger habitats or core areas providing supplementary habitats for dispersing tigers and offering scope for co-existence of human activity.
Conservationist Ajay Dubey in his PIL had demanded removal commercial tourism activities out of core or critical tiger habitats in the tiger reserves.
The buffer zones constitute the fringe areas of tiger reserves up to a distance of 10 kms.
It has been alleged that in violation of the conservation norms, authorities in various states had permitted large-scale construction of hotels, resorts and tourism projects, thereby gravely disturbing wildlife activities.
(With PTI inputs)