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Forest rules for resorts - Limit on wild tourism

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 6.05.11
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Jalpaiguri, May 5: The state forest department will not allow any new resort or hotel, private or government, to come up within a 10km radius of any wildlife sanctuary or national park once the surrounding areas are notified as eco-sensitive or fragile zones.

Vipan Sood, the conservator of forests (wildlife), north Bengal, said a letter to this effect had come from the ministry of environment and forests and the state government was asked to take up immediate steps to declare eco-sensitive zones.

“We will start the initial work after the elections are over and the aim is to regulate and control human activities outside the forests. We are talking about limited tourism. There are over 76 private resorts in Sinchal, Singalila, Champramari, Mahananda, Gorumara and Jaldapara wildlife sanctuaries as well as in Buxa Tiger Reserve and Neora Valley,” said Sood.

He added that the number of tourists and vehicle movement had to be regulated inside the forests for environment protection.

The forest officer said three committees would be formed to get a clear picture of people’s dependence on forests for livelihood.

“There will be one panel comprising people from forest villages and those residing on the fringes to study the problems of grazing and the extent to which the villagers depend on the forests. Another one will consist of members of forest and eco-protection committees and officials of forest and tourism departments to look into the aspect of tourism,” said Sood.

The third committee will be formed with forest officers and resort owners to decide what number of tourists and vehicles should be allowed inside and just outside the forests.

Sources in the forest department said private resorts had started coming up outside the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries since the late nineties. But a boom was witnessed in construction activities after 2003. The forest department, too, has developed eco-tourism spots outside several sanctuaries in north Bengal.

The secretary of the Lataguri Resort Owners’ Association, Kamal Bhowmik, said with very few government accommodations in the Dooars, budget tourists found staying in resorts very convenient.

“Most of the 38 private resorts in Lataguri are about 7km from the Gorumara National Park. Six more resorts are coming up as more and more tourists are travelling to the Dooars each year. We do not object to regulations being imposed on tourism activities as they would only protect the forests. But it has to be seen what limits the forest department will set to regulate constructions near sanctuaries,” said Bhowmik.