Covid curbs for zoos, safaris
The state forest department on Friday said it would reopen all zoos and state-run parks to the public from October 2, a day after it said national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves of the state would reopen from September 23.
It also came up with Covid safety guidelines for visitors and their employees in these spots.
All these areas were closed for visitors since March 17 in the wake of the pandemic.
“All those visiting forests, zoos and parks will have to adhere to new safety rules. Our employees will also follow safety protocols,” said Ravikant Sinha, principal chief conservator of forests of the state.
Under new norms, the elephant safari won’t be reintroduced immediately. Tourists can avail the car safari in forest areas and in parks and zoos, said a senior official.
All bookings have to be done online. In car safari, four persons, and not six, will be allowed in each vehicle. In watchtowers, up to 20 persons would be allowed at a time. Every vehicle has to be sanitised before entering the forest and the temperature of every visitor screened by the forest staff at entry points.
In enclosed areas and food centres run by the department and by West Bengal Forest Development Corporation Limited, entry of people would be curbed to 30 per cent of the usual capacity.
Employees, have been given specific instructions on the frequency of sanitising places where tourists are paying visits or are staying.
Welcoming these, travel trade stakeholders have pointed out some more issues to help the tourism industry.
According to representatives of Eastern Himalaya Travel & Tour Operators’ Association, the state should, through the Centre, take up the issue of sustainable development fee that the neighbouring country of Bhutan intends to charge from Indian tourists. They have also asked Bengal officials to speak to counterparts in Sikkim so that people in travel trade not based in Sikkim do not face problems in sending tourists to the state.
Himalayan Hospitality & Tourism Development Network has written to officials of NHAI, seeking immediate repairs of NH110 that links Siliguri and Darjeeling, and NH10 that links Sikkim and Kalimpong.
On Saturday, state tourism minister Gautam Deb will meet the stakeholders in Siliguri to discuss issues of the sector, said sources.