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Say no the Forest Elitists!
The recent ban on tourism in core areas of Tiger reserves has set of a s**t-storm - with the most dominant voices being the hoteliers wringing their hands and crying gloom and doom. And certainly some (most? all?) of it is certainly self serving!

Finally, here's an article supporting the ban from what I shall call as a "wildlife firster". The author, Jay Mazumdar, has a stellar reputation. However, I feel that this article completely ignores various important points to support tourism.

  • Will the local people - mostly poor tribals - be hurt economically? They may certainly not make the money the resorts make (have you seen the effing JLR rates of late???), but do they get nothing? What will be the adverse impact of this? The article completely ignores it.

  • The author suggests that the core be restricted to hardcore nature lovers. "With only a hard bed, a clean toilet and basic food on offer, the core will only attract those who really care for the forests and the picnic crowd will automatically move their party to the buffer." What about kids? If they don't experience our wildlife in its magnificence, how are they going to get interested and invested in conserving it?? What about the elderly? This is green elitism at its worst.

The points about polluting and explosion of resorts on the outskirts of forests make sense. They should be tackled effectively through laws, regulations, and enforcement. Unfortunately, a strong current of "Only the green elite, of whom I'm a member, should experience our forests" runs through the article, and ends up detracting from the arguments. The green elitism is compounded by the fact that *nothing* is mentioned about how important it is to get people from economically weaker sections to also enjoy our wildlife, and thereby get vested in protecting and conserving it. I'm disappointed.

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I personally support Jay on this one. To answer some of your points

1. Whats with the attitude of "poor tribals"? How do you define poor? Is it financial/ethical/cultural/social? They seem to have a lot more of that then most of us. I am not trying to post a rosy picture of co-existence, but the tourism stuff usually helps one or two villages which are at the park gate. Rest of 100s of them which are around the park, which tourist never see do not get any benefit. For the people who have been living inside, all the elite tourists want themselves in core areas.. but wanted all the people living there for donkey years out. This is the argument which failed from the tourism lobby.

2. I personally believe in this. I am not for ban on tourism. We need it to build support for wildlife. But this order itself is important to fix the double standards of our tourism/conservation community. Have you had a look at the new tourism guidelines? Most of the lobby rejected this.. which sucks since they need to give something back if they choose to be inside or just touching the parks. Infact I hate most tiger reservers coz its not accessible for common man. Mind Rs 3k per safari. I love bandipur model.. pay Rs 75 and you get a 1 hour free ride. My introduction was that too. Its not world class safari.. but accessible for common people.

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