Tourism pressure on Kaziranga park to be shifted from core area
GUWAHATI, Monday 23rd May 2011

GUWAHATI: The unimpeded growth of tourism around Kaziranga would soon be shifted from the core area of this national park. The chairperson of the committee on forests, environment and eco-tourism under the Union ministry of environment and forests, Sujit Banerji, said this on Saturday.

Banerji, who was in the city to attend a convention of Tour Operators` Association of Assam (TOAA), said concrete structures and other infrastructure ringing forests should be regulated in such a way that wildlife is able to move freely in buffer zones of protected eco-systems. "Buffer areas need to be well forested and so once wildlife starts inhabiting these areas, pressure of tourism is shifted from the core areas. There has to be incentives for the local community to allow forest increase in buffer areas," Banerji observed.

The former Union secretary of tourism said the committee, formed after unregulated tourism was reported from tiger reserves across the country, would promoted other parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the state to reduce "pressure" on Kaziranga. He said the committee will soon come out with recommendations on tourism in tiger reserves.

Some of the structures in Kaziranga have come up on vital animal corridors. "It is important to make the local community a part of the conservation process. Then much of the poaching pressure on Kaziranga would be reduced. I am glad that NH-37 on southern Kaziranga has been spared the onslaught of the highway expansion project," said Banerji. There has been much apprehension among tour operators in Kaziranga that tourism would be hampered because of the tiger project. Banerji said tourism is as important as conservation but there has to be a balance. Early this year, jeep safari operators at Kaziranga agitated demanding removal of the tiger reserve status from the national park.

Assam tourism principal secretary, H S Das, said mushrooming tourism structures around Kaziranga has become a matter of concern for the park`s fragile eco-system. "The park`s fragile eco-system would be in danger if such structures were allowed to flourish without regulation," Das said.

The Kaziranga Biodiversity Conservation Committee has been formed to look into the mushrooming of resorts and ensure ecologically-compliant development outside the park. Das said the committee would come out with its report soon.