Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gir also a thoroughfare!

Times of India By: Himanshu Kaushik Date: 20 March 2007


SASAN: If one has to travel from Visavadar to Talala in Junagadh district by a regular highway, one would have to go through Bilkha and Mendarda to reach Talala,which is at least 130 km away. Instead, people just drive through the Gir sanctuary, which reduces the total distance to 52 km.


The option may save travellers time and fuel, but it adds to the air and noise pollution of the Gir sanctuary, besides increasing the inflow of uncontrolled visitors to the protected habitat of the Asiatic lion. Welcome to the Gir sanctuary which, apart from becoming a happy hunting ground for lion killers, has also turned into a virtual thoroughfare connecting Junagadh and Amreli.


At least 500 vehicles pass through the Una-Talala or Dhari-Una road in Gir everyday. And there is no curbing this traffic, even after darkness.


The shrines located in the sanctuary also add to the lions' troubles. The Kankai Mata temple, Banej, Pataleshwar Mahadev and Tulsishyam are some of the religious spots inside Gir which are thronged by visitors. People even spend nights inside the sanctuary on certain religious occasions.


Forest officials said when night stay in the sanctuary was banned, there was a hue and cry, forcing them to permit camping during the day. However, people living in these shrines move about in the sanctuary unchecked, anytime of the day.


Officials fear that these relaxations could lead to Gir going the Sariska way, where tigers began disappearing. Former principal conservator of forests and member of the National Wildlife board, GA Patel says, "Sariska has a busy highway passing through the sanctuary which could have played a major role in the poaching of tigers."


Patel adds there is no political will to curb the traffic. "We are fighting a losing battle. Something should be done to save the big cats. There is need for some drastic measures." Additional principal chief conservator of forest Pradeep Khanna says the issue has been taken up at different levels and on several occasions. Forest minister Mangaldas Patel agrees some measures have to be taken to curb traffic.


The Roads through GIR

Visavadar – Sasan

Jamwada – Kankai

Jamwada – Banej

Una – Talala (24 Hours)

Jamwada – Dhari

Babariya – Patra – Banej

Junagadh – Talala

Haripur – Hirenwel

Dhari – Una via Tulsishya (24 Hours)

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