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Posts Tagged ‘bengal tigers’

The Indian Supreme Court has extended the ban on tourism in core tiger reserves until September 27th.

In the meantime, the Indian central government has been asked by the court to work with states and stakeholders (namely tour operators, hotels, and guides) to develop new guidelines on ecotourism in the tiger reserves.

The traditional start of the peak tourist season is October 1st.  The current ban affects more than 40 tiger reserves.

The Travel Operators’ for Tigers, an organization dedicated to responsible travel, said in a press release, “If nothing else, the ban has been an effective catalyst for everyone to debate the issues associated with wildlife tourism and conservation practices, and help bring it to much needed national attention – and action.”

Debate is good. The next month will most likely have many discussions on whether or not tourism deters poaching or can be detrimental to the tigers.  There are many examples of each.  And there are instances of things going to far. Ajay Dubey, the original petitioner of the ban, believes several Indian states have permitted the construction of hotels and shops inside the reserves, which shouldn’t be allowed.

Hopefully constructive talks will be held, and effective guidelines put in place.  The focus must be on how best to protect tigers.

Perhaps the idea of leaving some parks closed to tourism will be on the agenda; maybe it has already been discussed. Leave open some of the most popular and accessible parks, such as Rathambore and Corbett National Parks.  Continue the ban in others to see if it makes a difference.  And find ways to provide sustainable livelihoods for local peoples.

The battle to save tigers – not only in India but internationally – has not been all that successful, given the continued downward spiral in the number of wild tigers.  New approaches need to be undertaken.  Education is key, and also ways of making it more valuable to leave the tigers alone than to poach them out of existence.

Passing a Rights of Nature ordinance is another innovative approach.  Tigers and other species don’t exist for humans entertainment or use; we are all part of the same web of life and we disturb it at our own risk.

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Events in India over the last few weeks have or will have big impacts on tigers. India’s Supreme Court recently issued a temporary ban restricting tourists access to tiger parks.  The month of July ended with a massive blackout that left close to 700 million Indians without electricity – about 10% of the world’s population.  Then August started off with a report by Greenpeace calling for a moratorium on new coal projects in India, citing evidence that coal mining threatens wildlife and forests.

(photo: archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com)

No doubt the blackout will increase the number of voice calling to expand coal mining; coal-fired power plants produce almost 80% of India’s electricity.

According to the Greenpeace report, most of the new coal mines will be in central India – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and parts of Odisha and eastern Maharashtra.  1.1 million hectares of forests are under threat. Moreover, these places are home to 35% of India’s tiger population.  And probably more than a few people depend upon the forest for their livelihoods.

So on the one hand India is trying to protect the endangered Bengal tiger, and on the other it is continuing its dependence on one of the most dirty of fossil fuels, even importing coal to feed the system.

The UK Guardian put it quite well:  “A hot-button issue in India, the question of tiger conservation pits the responsibility for preserving wildlife against the development needs of a country that witnessed the slowest economic growth in nine years in March and where hundreds of millions continue to live below the poverty line.”

The situation India is in is also one most of the world is in – development/lifestyle vs. the environment.  Do countries continue to mine for coal, knowing that it will destroy animals, forests, and communities, not to mention the vast amounts of pollution it creates and the toll mining takes on the miners themselves?  Or is it time to seriously invest in clean energy?

India has abundant solar and wind (read Andy Revkin’s blog on bringing solar to rural communities; I also wrote about this a few years back for Triple Pundit).  Off-grid electricity has huge potential, not to mention increased energy efficiency efforts.

(photo: zimbio.com)

Business as usual cannot work much longer on a planet with finite resources and a growing number of consumers.

The Greenpeace report is long and very detailed.  But all one really needs to take from it is that there are at best 1,700 tigers left in India, over 80% of India’s proven coal reserves are found mostly under forests in Central India, and that India’s coal is likely to last only 30-40 more years.

Is it worth destroying so much when proven alternatives exist and the lives of future generations are at stake?

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