other interests must be secondary to this prime and over-riding consideration.
Protected areas are essential for the long-term health of the country as they form what
may well be the only remaining nucleus of biodiversity and an invaluable gene pool.
They must be conserved with that objective in mind. Pristine eco-systems, unmodified by
human efforts are the aim and not creating reservoirs of animals in manicured settings!
Protected Areas should not be viewed as a mere facility for recreation but rather as a site
for preserving an area of natural diversity, including both fauna and flora, that in addition
affords nature lovers an opportunity to observe wildlife in its natural state and to have
communion with nature.
The temptation to develop tourism at the cost of wildlife interests must be firmly resisted.
While it is true that tourism can generate valuable and needed financial inputs to national
parks, wildlife sanctuaries and other protected areas, this must never be at the cost of the
interests of wildlife.
Tourism in PAs has the potential to prevent illegal activities such as illegal felling of
trees, poaching, encroachments, etc. However uncontrolled tourism disturbs wildlife and
even hinders their breeding behavior. Tourism properly regulated can be force for
conservation, and create amongst the visitors on empathy for nature and particularly for
the PA in question, while it is also true that indiscriminate unregulated tourism can
In most areas, with only a very few exceptions, all the revenues from tourism go to the
consolidated fund of the State Government and are not available directly to the PA. In
any case the earnings from wildlife tourism are insignificant compared to the amount
spent in maintaining the PAs. Mechanism should be set up for ploughing back the
revenues earned and the PAs should also be in a position to receive donations and
assistance from well-meaning NGO’s, institutions, organizations directly rather than only
through the department at the State level.
In view of the fact that the conditions prevalent in different protected areas vary widely
and also change over time, it is essential that the precise tourism practices permitted in
any area be decided after careful consideration of the local situation and then according to
a written and approved tourism plan for the particular protected area. ‘The Tourism Plan’
should be a distinct section of the ‘Protected Area Management Plan’. Tourism activities
–those permitted and those prohibited- should therefore not be left to the whims of an
individual PA manager but should as a matter of policy be prescribed in the Management
Plan and be known to all. If there has to be changes from time to time, they should be
well reasoned and not sudden.
Tourism zones should be clearly defined. The Tourism Plan must also be revised and
updated periodically. No new tourist facilities and complexes be established where a 5
km radius of a PA without the prior approval of the State Wildlife Board.
Development around the protected area, particularly in the buffer zone, must be to protect
the eco-system and as far as possible to exert a centrifugal pressure on human populations
in the area. Steps that serve to attract a population to these sensitive areas are not in the
long-term interest of the PA.
Tourism does not occur in Protected Areas alone but is also a feature of other forested
areas, particularly those located in mountains near hill stations, along trekking routes and
around water bodies. In such situations too the authorities must take steps to educate the
public about being eco-sensitive, to avoid damaging natural flora and to ensure that there
is no fire hazard caused by their careless picnicking.
There is an especial category of visitors to several protected areas that need particular
attention. Pilgrimages to very well known and deeply revered sites impinge on several
protected areas where literally thousands of pilgrims go to temples and other sites within
PAs. Fortunately, the biggest influx occurs annually on pre-determined anniversaries, so
special arrangements can be made. Some of the best known are the annual pilgrimage to
Sabrimala in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, to the fort in Bandhavgarh by the Kabir Panthis,
in Sariska to the ancient temples. Even in Ranthambore the temple in the fort on the hill
attracts vast numbers of worshippers. Many, if not most PA’s have a temple associated
with it and worshipers do want and need access. Keeping in mind the religious sentiment
of the people and the long-standing tradition of allowing access, it is not practical to cutoff
access to these sites. However, it is important that the park and forest authorities
ensure that traffic is regulated and the safety of both wildlife and pilgrims is ensured.
Permitted periods and routes can be delineated and public awareness enhanced to make
the annual event eco-sensitive. Religious bodies and NGOs can be usefully harnessed to
be a force for conservation. The aim should be to not only protect the PA and wildlife,
but to try and send back pilgrims as a force for conservation.