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8th March 2024 (13 Topics)

A Slippery slope

Context

The Supreme Court of India has reprimanded the Uttarakhand government for permitting the felling of thousands of trees in the Jim Corbett National Park to expand a tiger safari, highlighting the link between political corruption and environmental damage.

1. Court's Critique on Environmental Damage:

  • Violation of practices: The Supreme Court has criticized the Uttarakhand government for allowing the felling of approximately 6,000 trees in the Jim Corbett National Park to expand a tiger safari, describing it as a violation of conservation practices.
  • Ecosystem disruption: Justice B.R. Gavai emphasized the importance of protecting tigers as an indicator of ecosystem well-being, stating that events like illegal tree felling cannot be ignored as they disrupt the ecosystem.
  • Detrimental impact of political corruption: The judgment underscores the detrimental impact of political corruption on environmental conservation efforts, particularly in the management of wildlife parks and the compatibility of tiger safaris with conservation measures.

2. Role of Expert Bodies and Guidelines:

  • Only with guidelines: The Central Zoo Authority and the National Tiger Conservation Authority, affiliated with the Union Environment Ministry, support the existence of tiger safaris if conducted within established guidelines.
  • Eco-tourism: These safaris divert attention away from core forest zones, promoting their inviolate nature and raising public awareness about conservation, with eco-tourism as the primary objective.
  • Risk of commercialization: However, recent arguments advocating safaris as sources of employment opportunities for locals pose a risk of commercialization and political influence, as seen in the Corbett Park case.

3. Recommendations for Governance and Conservation:

  • Balance between tourism and conservation: The Supreme Court has called upon the Centre to develop guidelines for safari conduct to balance tourism and conservation objectives.
  • Need for circumspection: It emphasizes the need for circumspection in government messaging regarding tourism and conservation to prevent political capture and prioritize environmental protection.
  • Proactive governance: The Court's recommendations highlight the imperative for proactive governance and policy measures to safeguard wildlife and ecosystems while promoting sustainable tourism practices.
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