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October 23, 2014

Uncontrolled Tourism in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve

There is a high influx of tourists in the NBR region. The major tourism zones include the Siruvani Waterfall with mostly local tourists who visit with an intent of a picnic and leave behind solid waste in the form of plastic wrappers, bottles and more. The next major tourism belt is that of the Upper Nilgiri region based around the towns of Coonoor and Ooty. The visitors include visitors from outside the state, foreigners and day visitors from cities and towns of Tamil Nadu. The Ooty- Coonoor region is the hub of most tourist activities with the estimated number of people touching more than twelve lakh persons in a year. The third major zone is that of the Sigur Plateau where wildlife tourism is in the vogue. A consequent spin-off of the wildlife tourism enterprise is that of widespread reports of night safari, attempts at domestication of wild animals and increased pressures on the meager resources of this dry plateau. The fourth zone is that of the Bandipur- Gundulpet belt where a number of resorts have come up, adjacent to the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. This comprises of visitors from parts of Karnataka and outstation visitors from other parts of India. The Fifth zone is in Nagarhole where the majority of the tourists are willing to pay more for high end services that include luxury settings. The sixth zone is that of Wyanad where there has been recent developments in tourism and a number of middle to high end resorts have come up that cater to varying clientele. The seventh zone is the Silent Valley National park where a limited number of tourists are allowed.

Of these seven zones, the Sigur plateau, Ooty Plateau and Bandipur region are under severe pressure. A large number of tourists arrive with an intention to enjoy, with minimal respect for the environment. Rowdiness is rampant and these tourists are especially uncontrolled during the summer season in the plateau region of Ooty. The brunt of uncontrolled tourism is most felt in the wildlife areas like Sigur and Nagarhole, where it leads to firewood cutting for tourist needs, night jeep rides for animal sighting, etc. This `green greed’ - has led to the mushrooming of several wildlife resorts, guest houses and camp sites in the area. Many private estates have converted to this lucrative business. E.g. in Sigur sub region there are more than thirty wild life resorts and hotels which put severe pressure for resources in that plateau (Keystone, Water Resources and Land Use Survey, 2006).

Besides, there is little restriction on the number and kinds of vehicles that are let into the protected areas, especially in Mudumalai (Daniel, 1996). Roads have proven to be a major source of degradation of the forest regions and in fast forwarding exposure of adivasis to jetsetters from all over the nation. One particular example is the road that passes through Masinagudi and upto Ooty through the forested regions of Sigur, this being a road that witness more vehicles than the main Gudalur- Mysore highway. Tourists coming from different areas exert pressure on the eco-system by excessive traffic, demand for goods and services and solid waste pollution.