MoEF pulled up for flip-flop on tiger tourism

Government more worried about commercial activities being hit than safety of tigers: Supreme Court
MoEF pulled up for flip-flop on tiger tourism

The Supreme Court has pulled up the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for changing its stance on allowing tourism in core tiger habitats. The bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and A K Patnaik said the government seems to be more worried about commercial activities getting affected than about the safety of tigers.

The caustic remarks followed an additional affidavit that the ministry submitted to the court on August 22, asking the court to allow it to review its guidelines on tourism in and around protected areas. The guidelines which were submitted to the court on July 9, had called for phasing out tourism from core tiger habitats and imposing conservation cess on tourist facilities. The court had ordered an interim ban on tiger tourism on July 24.

The counsel for MoEF and National Tiger Conservation Authority, Wasim A Qadri, argued that many states have made representations to the ministry, expressing concern about the guidelines. He sought more time from the court for consultations and reviewing the guidelines.

But the court did not buy the argument. “You are just making up things. You claim to have deliberated and taken views while submitting guidelines for which you had formed a committee, and now you say you want to review them?” the judges asked. The court adjourned the matter for August 29 and said that the ministry should make up its mind and make its stand clear on that date. Till then the interim ban would continue.

The judges expressed concern over number of tigers dwindling from 13,000 to 1,700. “The ministry should tell us clearly as to what steps it has taken to protect tigers,” the bench said.

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