Wants to charge the money from wildlife tourists, instead
The government of Madhya Pradesh does not want to impose any tax on tourist resorts operating near tiger reserves. Going one step ahead of the Centre, which has diluted its earlier guidelines on tourism in and around tiger reserves, the state government said that the money for wildlife conservation should be collected as the entry fee from the visitors at the gate of protected areas. The Madhya Pradesh government said this during the hearing in the tiger tourism case in the Supreme Court on October 3.
Citing the example of Panchmarhi in Madhya Pradesh (MP), the counsel of the state government said that not all tourists who stay in the resorts go inside the park; some of them travel to visit religious places and others to enjoy the scenic beauty of such places. Therefore, the money should only be collected from those who enter the reserves, he said, while adding that after the ban on tourism in core tiger habitats, the livelihood of many people who were dependent on pilgrims' visits inside Panchmarhi has been severely affected.
On September 27, the Centre had submitted a fresh set of eco-tourism guidelines to the court which said that state government should levy a conservation tax on the resorts for the welfare of communities in and around parks. The logic behind the conservation tax was that the resorts depend on natural resources of the reserve, but the communities bear the brunt of it. The guidelines said that the conservation tax should be between Rs 500-Rs 3000 per room per month. In the previous guidelines for eco-tourism, the Centre had said that there should be 10 per cent cess on the turnover of the resorts.
The argument of the MP government does not hold good because in many parks the entry fee being charged from tourists is in any case being used to fund conservation of reserves. So, seeking to shift the tax burden on to tourists does not make any sense, say activists. They add that Madhya Pradesh just wants to shift the tax burden on to the consumer.
During the last hearing, the apex court had said that it would hear the representation of states on the eco-tourism guidelines, but due to paucity of time submissions could be made by only one state on Wednesday. The court will hear the matter next on October 9.
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