Citing concerns expressed by states, the Centre has sought the Supreme Court's permission to review existing guidelines for conservation of tigers in the wake of its order banning tourism in core areas of tiger reserves across the country.
The Centre's affidavit virtually urged the apex court to review its July 24 interim order banning tourism in the core areas of the wild cats until final orders.
It claimed that the ban on tourism could result in not only loss of livelihood to several persons but also pose threat to wildlife and forests in the country.
"Representation from some states who own the land and have pointed out that they would like to give input and suggestions in this regard have been received in the context of the interim order issued by the court to stop tourism in the core areas of tiger reserves," it said.
The states have expressed concern that many local people depend on tourism for their livelihood and hence stoppage of tourism in core areas of tiger reserves would result in loss of such income leading to discontent which may be a threat to wildlife and forests, it ontended.
Besides, the common citizen would be deprived of an opportunity to appreciate our natural heritage. Further concerns have been expressed from various quarters on the process adopted by States in notifying the buffer areas of tiger reserves," the Centre said.
The additional affidavit jointly filed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Environment and Forests said the earlier guidelines framed by it on the basis of which the apex court had passed the interim ban orders needs to be reviewed.
"The guidelines submitted in the context of ecotourism in and around protected areas require further review based on more consultations with all stakeholders, including state governments and representatives of local, indigenous communities," the Centre said.
"The respondents may be permitted to further review the guidelines and conduct more consultations with all stakeholders including State governments and representatives of local indigenous communities, besides reviewing the process adopted by States in notifying the buffer areas of tiger reserves," the affidavit added.
Under the existing guidelines and rules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the states have to notify the list of core and buffer areas of tiger reserves in their respective jurisdictions.
Buffer zones are the areas which lie in the periphery of core areas also known as critical tiger habitats. Tiger breeding takes place in core areas which are meant to be kept free of any disturbance, including tourism.
The buffer zones constitute the fringe areas of tiger reserves up to a distance of 10 kms. There are an estimated over 1,700 tigers in the country.
A bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and Ibrahim Kalifulla had earlier warned of initiation of contempt proceedings and imposition of exemplary costs on states which fail to notify the buffer zones in their respective tiger reserves.
The apex court had said several states despite earlier directions of April 4 and July 10 failed to notify buffer zones in their respective reserves to regulate commercialisation of revenue land around big cat habitats and help preserve the endangered species.
The apex court had also imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 each on Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra and Jharkhand for not complying with its directions.
"We make it clear that till final directions are issued by this court, the core zones or core areas in the tiger reserves will not be used for tourism," the bench had said.
The apex court passed the order while dealing with a public interest litigation filed by conservationist Ajay Dubey demanding removal of commercial tourism activities from core areas in the tiger reserves.