TOURISM TO BENEFIT LOCALS IN MELGHAT TIGER RESERVE - 9th May 2013

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN
NAGPUR: Shahanoor, a tiny village on the foothills of Narnala fort and wildlife sanctuary in Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR), is an example of how tourism can be practised to benefit local villagers. The Shahanoor village eco-development committee (EDC) has become the first to buy its own 4WD vehicle and earn Rs 25,000 during the tourism season in Melghat.

A few years ago, in the absence of receiving any tourism benefits from Narnala, there was a tense and difficult relationship between the 88 families in Shahanoor and the local forest department. However, with the setting up of the eco-development committee (EDC) allowing locals to reap benefits of eco-tourism, foes have turned into friends.
After looking at Shahanoor's success, more EDCs are coming up in MTR and seeking support from the MTR Foundation to buy 4WD vehicles.

Tiger habitats cannot be secured unless the future of hundreds of those who live on the fringes of protected areas (PAs) is secured. Keeping this in mind, MTR field director K P Singh shared his idea with Satpuda Foundation, a NGO working for wildlife conservation, who decided to sell one of its vehicles to the EDC at a bare minimum price.

"In other tiger reserves many outsiders are making huge money from tiger tourism.” said Singh. “Being the local stakeholders, they are the first who should earn from tiger tourism.” he added.

The EDC has made some nine safari trips at the rate of Rs 2,500 per trip this season. The tourists were happy to enjoy the excursion with trained guides.

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