Environment & Biodiversity

Decoding the decision on Jim Corbett

The Supreme Court’s March verdict revealed the corrupt collaboration between politicians, forest officials, and local contractors that resulted in the illegal destruction of 6,000 trees in Uttarakhand’s Jim Corbett National Park. 

Key points linked to the judgement

  • The Supreme Court emphasised the importance of an eco-centric approach rather than anthropocentrism in ecotourism management.
  • Ban on Tiger Safaris in Core Areas: The court disagreed with the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) 2019 guidelines, which allowed for tiger safaris similar to those found in zoos in national parks. The court ordered the ban on tiger safaris in core areas of national parks, with the goal of minimising environmental damage and disturbance to wildlife habitats.
  • A committee was formed to investigate the potential of allowing tiger safaris in the peripheral parts of national parks across India, showing a cautious approach to balancing tourist and conservation objectives. 

What the Court Missed

Absence of Well-Defined approach: The court’s judgement to seek restoration costs from errant persons and officers lacks a well-defined approach, making it difficult to adequately estimate the harm done to Jim Corbett’s green cover.

Suggestive measures

  • Need for Ecosystem Services-Based Valuation: With the increasing degradation of biodiversity hotspots and support for revenue-generating eco-tourism, there is a need for a valuation technique based on ecosystem services, such as food, water, and climate regulation.
  • Precedent on Ecosystem Services: The court may have established a precedent by prioritising ecosystem services over eco-tourism or emphasising the importance of a clear legislation and policy governing ecosystem services, which are critical to environmental conservation and sustainable development.
  • Reference to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Ruling: The International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) argument in Costa Rica v. Nicaragua (2018) addressing the compensability of environmental damage might have been used to better comprehend approaches for measuring environmental damage and loss of ecosystem services.

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