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NGT issues notices for ‘harmful tourism’ activities inside Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Odisha

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has taken cognizance of a petition filed by Biswajit Mohanty, Secretary of Wildlife Society of Orissa, challenging harmful tourism activities within the Satkosia Tiger Reserve and Satkosia gorge under the guise of eco-tourism.

The NGT’s east zone bench in Kolkata issued notices to the central and state governments to respond to the petition. Satkosia gorge, a significant natural habitat spanning about 22.5 km and home to approximately 500 endangered gharials, is particularly at risk due to these activities. The gorge was declared a Ramsar site in 2021, emphasising its ecological importance.

The petition asserts that the construction of tents and sheds for tourists in this ecologically sensitive area could lead to irreversible damage to the local environment and biodiversity. Advocates Sankar Prasad Pani and Ashutosh Padhy presented submissions on behalf of the petitioner in a virtual mode.

The bench, comprising B Amit Sthalekar (judicial member) and Arun Kumar Verma (expert member), recognised the significance of the matter and scheduled further hearings for May 10. The bench also instructed the governments to respond within four weeks.

However, the bench did not provide interim relief by directing the cessation of motorized boat tours in Satkosia gorge, halting the operation of tree-top canopy tours for tourists, or prohibiting the establishment of temporary sheds or tourist tents in the Mahanadi riverbed at Badmul within the tiger reserve until the petition is resolved.

According to the petition, numerous cottage tents, some equipped with air conditioning, and accompanying dining huts have been set up during the tourist season from October to May at the ‘Badmul sand resort.’

Activities such as bonfires, sand sports, and folk music and dance performances are organised, causing significant disturbance to the wildlife in the area. The petition aims to address these issues and safeguard the delicate ecological balance of the Satkosia Tiger Reserve and Satkosia gorge.

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