Eco-Zoning: The Key Solution to Overtourism in India's Jungle Lodges

Krishna Kumar Singh, founder of Bandhavgarh Jungle Camp, and Hashim Tyabji, director of Kafila Luxury Camp, are wildlife tourism pioneers in India and recently shared concerns about the current state of wildlife tourism.

New Update

Tourism has boosted conservation and big cat populations, but there's now more emphasis on entertainment tourism over nature and wildlife, straining fragile ecosystems

Listen to this article
0.75x 1x 1.5x
00:00 / 00:00

Wildlife Tourism Pioneers Speak Out: Concerns and Solutions

The Supreme Court division bench banned tiger safaris in certain parts of Corbett Tiger Reserve in March 2024. The judges emphasized the need for lodges near the parks to adopt an 'ecocentric' approach rather than a human-centric one. While wildlife tourism has supported wildlife conservation and improved the lives of people near national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India, over-tourism has become a problem, putting stress on the wildlife ecosystem. Although tourism has contributed to conservation and increased the number of big cat populations, including tigers, there is now a greater focus on fun and entertainment tourism rather than nature and wildlife, which is straining fragile ecosystems around the parks. Krishna Kumar Singh, a wildlife tourism pioneer, has expressed concerns about the changing priorities of tourists visiting these destinations.

Krishna Kumar Singh, the founder of Bandhavgarh Jungle Camp

Singh, who has been involved in empowered committees for wildlife tourism in Madhya Pradesh, feels that while the forest department effectively manages entry and tourist activities within the core areas of the park, issues of over-tourism around the fringes are not properly controlled, leading to strain and stress on the ecosystem.

Hashim Tyabji, the director of Kafila Luxury Camp

Hashim Tyabji, another wildlife enthusiast who set up lodges in Pench and Satpura before switching to Ladakh with snow leopard lodges under the Kafila Camps brand, also shares similar concerns about the issue of overtourism in the country's most popular national parks and tiger reserves. He points out that while the forest department has authority within protected areas, it lacks control over land usage in the fringes.

Top forest officials and eco-lodge operators discussing wildlife tourism in Uttar Pradesh at the first Ecotourism 'Samvad' in Lucknow

“There is no need to single out the tourism industry alone. Like any other industry, it is as diverse as its stakeholders. Several owners self-regulate themselves for the larger interest of the ecosystem, nature, and wildlife. They buy land, rewild it, put up a small inventory, and do things responsibly as far as possible. But on the other end of the spectrum, some owners are only after opportunity and profits,” Tyabji said.

The Supreme Court division bench banned tiger safaris in certain parts of Corbett Tiger Reserve in March 2024

Tyabji mentioned that while guidelines mandate governments to implement ESZ (Ecologically Sensitive Zones) guidelines and zoning of the areas around the parks, due to political pressure, the implementation is permanently deferred. Tyabji cited how specialized hotels for weddings and social events operate in Tala, which is in the centre of the Bandhavgarh reserve forest. Music and entertainment continue until late at night.

The forest department manages tourist activities well in the core areas but struggles to control over-tourism at the fringes, putting stress on the ecosystem

He feels that even the Town and Country Planning Act, if implemented properly by states, has the wherewithal to implement zoning in such destinations. He cited Khajuraho as an example of a state government that has effectively implemented the Town & Country Planning Act. On the other hand, in Pachmarhi, a popular leisure destination in Madhya Pradesh, the TCP Act is implemented at the Satpura end, but in Madai, which is more touristic, the administration hesitates to implement the Act.

The forest department has authority within protected areas but lacks control over land usage in the fringes

“When the forest department penalizes operators even for smaller violations like being late at the entry gate to overspeeding in the park, the same forest department is totally helpless for gross violations that happen outside the core,” Tyabji says.

Latest Stories