SUBJECT :development of ecotourism infrastructure. 

Nagpur, May 16, 2018: The MoEFCC and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) have stepped in to rein in the Maharashtra Ecotourism Development Board (MEDB), which has mega plans to develop 320 ecotourism sites in the state by 2022. While the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) has considered ecotourism as non-forestry activity and diversion of forest for the same would need permission under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, in a letter to state’s chief wildlife warden and all field directors, the NTCA has said all ecotourism activities in six tigers reserves in Maharashtra and over 50 sanctuaries and national parks should be as per its guidelines issued under Section 38 O (1) C of the amended Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and prescriptions of tiger conservation plans (TCPs) as per Section 38V of the Act. Suresh Chopne, Regional Environment Committee (REC), Nagpur, said there is confusion among officials about definition of forestry and non-forestry activity and public utility activities are being promoted in the name of forestry activity.“Recently, the MoEFCC has issued guidelines stating ecotourism is a non-forest activity.

There is a provision of strict action against forest officers or any agency against violation,” Chopne said. “The broad definition of ‘non-forest purpose’ as per Forest (Conservation) Act means breaking up or clearing of any forest land or portion thereof for any purpose other than reafforestation,” said Chopne. He added cultivation of tea, coffee, spices, rubber, palms, oil-bearing plants, horticultural crops or medicinal plants are also non-forest purpose under the FCA. However, any work relating or ancillary to conservation, development and management of forests and wildlife, namely establishment of check-posts, fire lines, wireless communications and construction of fencing, bridges and culverts, dams, waterholes, trench marks, boundary marks, pipelines etc are not considered as non-forest purpose.Regional MoEFCC officials too confirmed “ecotourism is a non-forestry activity.” In case of public utility projects of the government, the penalty is 20% and officials concerned may face disciplinary action in case of violations.“Law of the land will be followed.

At the same time, we need to keep a practical approach as ecotourism in Maharashtra has a huge potential to provide livelihood to locals.

Most of the projects will be eco-friendly,” said Arun Tikhe, expert member of MEDB. “Nisarganubhav, which the MEDB is promoting, is an educational idea being taken up to sensitize young minds.

For such purposes, I don’t think FCA will be applicable.

We will discuss the issues at MEDB board meeting,” said Tikhe. Though MEDB is implementing many projects and also released grants too; only six projects have been listed on the MoEFCC website on forest clearance.

Source: Nyoooz