Tigers and tourists win

Banning tourism in India's tiger reserves was a terrible idea. So it is welcome news that the decision has been reversed and a new compromise reached.

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Sometimes good intentions get translated into bad policy. That was how it appeared in July, when a court ruling effectively banned tourism at India's tiger reserves. The rationale was that tourism could work against the goals of conservation. With an estimated 3,200 tigers left in the world and half of them in India, protecting the species from extinction and allowing them the space to build up their numbers was a priority.

The problem, as The National pointed out at the time, is that tourism was bringing much-needed money to the communities surrounding the reserves. Deprived of that source of income, villagers might be encouraged to become, or aid, poachers - a particularly lucrative business given the small fortunes paid in China for tiger products.

On Tuesday, the Indian Supreme Court overturned the ban, following a government decision that no new tourist facilities be built near tiger reserves and that only 20 per cent of tiger habitats be open to visitors.

This appears to be a sensible compromise that should protect both the tigers in those reserves and the livelihoods of people reliant on the tourist trade, while allowing tourists to enjoy seeing these magnificent animals in their own environment. Mutually beneficial coexistence is the best policy of all.