To wean away locals from hunting bushmeat and to curb wanton felling of trees by providing sources of alternate livelihoods to them, the state forest department is developing trek routes and tourism infrastructure in Konkan. The battle against poaching in the fragile ecology of the Sahyadris is being fought through the development of eco-tourism.
“These are areas where bush hunting traditionally takes place. It affects the prey base in the tiger reserve. Hence, we are promoting the development of sustainable livelihoods through tourism… things will gradually change for better as we involve local communities in eco-tourism which will lead them to quit a high-risk venture like hunting,” V Clement Ben, field director and chief conservator of forests (CCF), Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (STR) told DNA. Ben said the Konkan side of the STR, which had no buffer zone, had poaching routes.
He added that they had commissioned around 2.5km trek route from Tivare to Maldeo in Ratnagiri district, earlier this month, with more being proposed. Ben said village eco-tourism development committees (VEDC), consisting of locals and forest officials would manage these projects. Locals will also be trained as guides.
“We plan to integrate these routes with our ‘Bhramanti’ app so people can book their treks sans hassles. Gradually, homestays will be set up by locals and integrated with the system. We will purchase two tents for the VEDC and are seeking land from the district administration to pitch them,” said Ben. He added that they were also seeking permissions to use a minor irrigation tank at Tivare for boating.The 1,165.56 sq km STR includes a 600.12 sq km core and 565.45 sq km buffer in Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Ratnagiri. According to the 2014 tiger census, the STR has between 5-8 tigers based on scat DNA and model-based predictions, making it a low-intensity reserve. Local activist Nilesh Bapat said they planned to develop a base camp with homestays by locals.