Bhubaneswar, Oct 29 (LoalWire) Odisha forest department’s move in making operational eco-tourism projects in Satkosia Tiger Reserve (STR) in Angul district has sparked off a controversy with wildlife activists questioning the propriety of such a measure.
The launch of eco tourism projects is an infringement of the apex court order that prohibits harmful and disturbing effects of tourism inside tiger reserves.
Besides, it is flagrant violation of guidelines issued by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), wildlife activist Biswajit Mohanty alleged in a letter addressed to NTCA.
Throwing norms to the wind, the State forest department continues to promote activities in the name of “eco tourism”. Such acts trigger enormous and deep lasting impacts on wildlife.
It should have never been permitted inside any tiger reserve to attract tourists, he opined.
Elaborating the adverse effects of eco tourism, he said more than 20 tents have been pitched on the Mahanadi river bed and these are being used for accommodation of tourists.
Bonfires are lighted at night while folk dance arranged every evening with camp fire along with sand sports like Volleyball, basket Ball and football.
The department has launched publicity campaign to promote such activities, detrimental to the wildlife habitat.
Folk dance with music and sound is harmful for local wildlife. Similarly, sand sports will lead to sand compaction which will make the habitat unsuitable for ground dwelling, burrowing and egg laying fauna, he said.
River beds are unique ecological spaces that deserve to be left alone. No activity on a river bed should be permitted inside a Tiger Reserve since it snatches away wildlife feeding and basking area.
The Mahanadi river bed within the Tiger Reseve is used for basking and nesting by turtles and crocodiles. Birds like Indian skimmers, terns and Pratincoles also use it for nesting and feeding, he said.
Bonfires at night also affect nocturnal wildlife, disorients their vision thereby impacting their ability to feed and move about freely.
Given the adverse effect of such eco-tourism projects, the tent resort needs to be shifted outside the river bed and relocated on the outskirts of the core area of the tiger reserve, he opined.
The STR conducts motorized boat cruises inside the gorge. Such initiatives are detrimental to the eco-system within the core area of a tiger reserve.
The sound and vibration of motorized engines disturb aquatic fauna like turtles, fish, crocodiles and avian fauna like migratory water fowls that are sighted in large numbers.
Very often crocodiles and turtles which bask on the riverbank get disturbed and disoriented at the very sight of cruise boats on close vicinity of riverbed. It affects their metabolism dependent upon winter basking.
Boating of any kind inside the Mahandi river gorge should be completely banned as it affects wildlife. Birds like migratory water fowl cannot even rest or feed properly once they sight an approaching boat whether it is a country boat or a motorized boat.
The STR authorities have erected a tree top canopy walk for tourists for bird watching. Birds use the tree canopy for nesting and roosting and even for resting. This also equally disturbs the winged species and their chicks.
Tourists need to use binoculars which are the practice worldwide for viewing of avian species from a distance. The tree top canopy walk should be immediately dismantled to provide congenial environs to the birds.
The conducive ecosystem and environs of wildlife are of paramount significance in a tiger reserve. The forest department should stop sacrificing the wildlife interest at the altar of tourism revenues, he concluded.