For those who were expecting increased inflow of tourists in sanctuaries in Uttar Pradesh after they were reopened for public earlier this month, disappointment hangs heavy in the winter air.
Tourists have largely kept away from visiting the sanctuaries, which normally are tourist hotspots at this time of the season.
Forest officials said that the main reason for thin tourist presence in sanctuaries was Covid restrictions that prevented people above the age of 65, pregnant women, those with comorbidities, persons with more than one ailment and children aged below 10 from venturing out.
"The Dudhwa Tiger Reserve is basically a family weekend getaway, but people cannot be expected to leave their children behind when they come visiting for a holiday. In fact, it is the children who enjoy their stay and are thrilled to see animals in the wild," said an official at DTR.
In the first 15 days of the season this year, UP Forest Corporation recorded only 191 visitors. Of these, Dudhwa National Park drew maximum 130 guests.
The Katarniaghat Wildlife sanctuary had 56 visitors between November 1 and 15 while Chuka Ghat in Pilibhit Tiger Reserve had only five visitors.
The total revenue earned during the period is a little over Rs 6 lakh. Dudhwa earned around Rs 4 lakh, followed by Katarniaghat with about Rs 1.9 lakh, and Pilibhit about Rs 28,000.
Last year, between November 15 and 30, Dudhwa had received 159 visitors, followed by 135 at Katarniaghat and 73 at Chuka Ghat. The revenue earned was around Rs 7.5 lakh, with Dudhwa clocking an earning of Rs 4.1 lakh, Katarniaghat around Rs 2.4 lakh, and Chuka Ghat about Rs 1 lakh.
Uttar Pradesh Forest Corporation General Manager (Eco-tourism) Eva Sharma said: "Despite the restrictions, we got a fairly good public response at Dudhwa during Diwali. Chuka Ghat got limited number of visitors due to ongoing renovation of cottages."
UP's national parks and wildlife sanctuaries this month opened 15 days ahead of schedule. These parks and sanctuaries had closed on March 18 due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
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