Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Some tiger reserves seeing a whooping increase of tourist footfall are experiencing immense pressure on the local natural sources, civic amenities and wildlife.
Madhya Pradesh government’s State Wildlife Action Plan (SWLAP) 2023-2043 has recommended ameliorative measures to check irreversible impacts.
SWLAP stressed on an urgent need to plan and develop other wildlife rich areas as ecotourism destinations as have remained untapped so far.
Among the tiger reserves, Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench have remained the most visited wildlife destinations, primarily because of the high chances of sighting a tiger and easy accessibility by rail, road and air.
The other tiger reserves too are slowly gaining popularity and are being chosen for visitations. Tiger sightings remain the key reason why tourists visit a particular tiger reserve.
Data shows that the famous tiger reserves saw a rapid increase in tourist footfall and consequent mushrooming of eateries, hotels and big resorts in an unplanned manner from 2005 onwards.
As a result, the buffer zones and corridors are now beginning to feel the pressure of unrestricted growth in tourism infrastructure, and even access to some corridors is threatened.
The other major driver of tourism in some Protected Areas (PAs) is pilgrimage (Satpura and Bandhavgarh), Satpura receives a large number of visitors on certain festivals.
Two religious congregations at Nagdwari and Mahadeo take place in August and February and each of these places is visited by around two to three lakh people every year.
During the mela, around 4000 vehicles enter Pachmarhi and 400 makeshift shops are built by locals and religious trusts from Maharashtra.
The mela continues for 12 days but the aftereffects continue for a month. The SWLAP said that issue needs to be addressed to reduce the adverse impacts on forests and wildlife.
Under priority action, SWAP suggests including detailed ecotourism sub plans as a part of the tiger conservation places of tiger reserves, the management plans of Protected Areas and working plans in case of territorial divisions.
Moreover, it vouches for a regular review to ensure that a tourism development in tiger reserves, protected areas and territorial divisions follows the principles of ecotourism and strictly adheres to the guidelines given by National Wildlife Action Plan, State Wildlife Action Plan, National Tiger Conservation Authority etc.