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July 24, 2012

Supreme Court bans tourism in core tiger reserve zones

     New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday banned all tourism activities in core areas of tiger reserves across the country. Stepping in to conserve the fast disappearing felines, a two-judge bench of Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice Ibrahim Kalifulla also warned of contempt proceedings and imposition of fine on states that 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 apex court said. The court, livid at states that, despite its April 4 and July 10 directions, had failed to notify the buffer zones in their respective reserves, imposed a fine of Rs.10, 000 each on Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. It also warned that if they 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. 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 court was hearing a PIL filed by conservationist Ajay Dubey demanding removal of commercial tourism activities from core or critical tiger habitats in the tiger reserves. On April 4, the court had asked Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra to notify the zones within three months. On July 10, the apex court had granted two more weeks "as last opportunity" to the defaulting states. Rajasthan had informed the court that it had notified the zones. Under Section 38(b) and Explanation 1 and 2 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the states have to notify the list of core and buffer areas of tiger reserves under 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. The buffer zones constitute the fringe areas of tiger reserves up to a distance of 10 kilometres. It has been alleged in the PIL that authorities in various states had permitted large-scale construction of hotels, resorts and tourism projects, thereby disturbing wildlife.
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