Jaipur: The forest department is adamant on organising a marathon inside the core area of the Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve (MHTR) and justified the move as promotion of eco-tourism and conservation of forest and wildlife.
Sources said the chief conservator of forests (wildlife) in a letter mentioned that the participants would be charged an entry fee to run in the tiger reserve. This is despite the fact that the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) called such activities as “undesirable” inside a tiger reserve.
NTCA member-secretary Anup Kumar Nayak said, “We are not aware about the fact that such event is happening in the tiger reserve. However, large number of people running in the core area of the tiger reserve is not desirable.”
Activists also pointed out even if the forest department intended to promote tourism, the marathon inside the core area was in violation of existing guidelines of the tiger reserve. Bhopal-based wildlife activist Ajay Dubey, who recently filed a complaint with the NTCA after tourism activities inside Madhya Pradesh tiger reserves increased said, “Allowing a marathon in a tiger reserve is a blatant violation of the wildlife Act. If the department wants to promote tourism, it should be according to the proposed tiger conservation plan. Hundreds of people running inside the zero tolerance zone would create stress on the wildlife.”
As per the proposal, hundreds of participants are scheduled to take part in the run — to be held under various categories such as 10km, 21km and 42km — passing through the critical habitat zone of Jawahar Sagar and Ambarani.
Wildlife activists said though tigers weren’t present in the route where the event was being held, it would disturb the natural habitat of endangered species such as leopards, sloth bears and spotted and sambar deer.