Hyderabad: To create a “unique ecotourism attraction”, a glass bottomed cantilevered viewing platform is being constructed by the State Tourism Department deep inside the core area of the Amrabad Tiger Reserve. This attempt at ecotourism is said to run foul of the Supreme Court guidelines on tourist infrastructure inside tiger reserves.
The Tourism Department began construction of the cantilevered platform a few days ago. According to sources, it will cost the government between Rs 1 crore and `1.5 crore. The U-shaped structure will extend eight metres over an escarpment at Farhabad View Point in the reserve. The glass bottomed walkway will be eight feet wide. The Civil Engineering Department of Osmania University designed the platform. The project is being executed by the Tourism Department which engaged a private contractor for the construction.
The Supreme Court has made it clear that “no new infrastructure shall be set up within the core or critical tiger habitat of tiger reserves in violation of the provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, and the directives of the Honourable Supreme Court.”
The National Green Tribunal too had in a judgment in 2015 declared that even temporary camps and ‘eco-tourism’ are non-forest activity. Asked if the State Forest Department had sought the permission of the National Tiger Conservation Authority before permitting construction of the new structure, a department official said that since it was for promoting ‘ecotourism’, no permissions were required!
Amrabad Tiger Reserve is the largest forest area dedicated to tiger conservation in the state. It covers more than 1,700 sq km and has several villages and water bodies as enclosures.
It is currently home to about 20 tigers, more than 100 leopards and a wide variety of wildlife including Sloth Bear, different species of deer and the Indian Wild Dog.
The Farhabad Viewpoint provides vast vistas of forest below the escarpment and is the terminal point for a nearly 18 km round trip ride for tourists in the reserve. The Tourism Department had also sought permission for construction of rest rooms for visitors at the Farhabad View Point but was not allowed to build these at the location, it is learnt. A tourism department official said that it was only building the structure, and ferrying tourists to and from the location will be handled by the Forest Department.