Friday, September 28, 2007

NGOs, corporates give lions wall cover


Times of India, Front Page

RAJKOT/AHMEDABAD: Over 8,000 open wells in Gir forest that claimed the lives of 24 Asiatic lions during the past six years, will finally have parapet walls, courtesy corporates and NGOs.

A MoU for this purpose has been signed with Rajkot-based NGO Wild Life Conservation Trust (WLCT) for construction of parapets on 100 wells during the current fiscal, said Bharat Pathak, conservator of forest (Gir). He added that parapets on 1,500 wells will be constructed this fiscal itself.

Corporates, including Reliance, Ambuja Cement, Tatas and Shell, besides leading wildlife conservation NGOs, have evinced interest in the exercise, which is likely to be finished in three years. As per a survey carried out by the forest department, 8,778 open wells are situated in 158 villages surrounding Gir forest, which pose a grave threat to wild animals. Around 700 wells, located in Gir forest range, have already been covered by the forest department. The most vulnerable for wild animals are wells in Kotda, Paniya, Chanchai and Dalkhania villages where construction of parapets on wells will be taken up on a priority basis. During the past six years 47 lions had fallen into the wells.

According to Pathak, apart from WLCT, Reliance Rural Development Trust (RRDT) and Ambuja Cement would also construct parapets on 2,000 wells. Negotiations were on with few other big corporates for the project, he added.

Additional chief conservator of forest Pradeep Khanna said, "We have prepared two plans. The first is where the government would monitor the process of parapet construction and would give a total of Rs 4,000 per well and the remaining would have to be financed by the NGOs and corporates. In the second model, the NGO would give the money to Lion Conservation Society formed by the state government and the government would take up the construction on behalf of these NGOs or the corporates."

When contacted, RRDT chairman Parimal Nathwani, also group president of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), confirmed that the trust would complete parapet work on 1,500 wells in one year’s time.

WLCT executive director Kishor Kotecha said a design of the parapet wall has been prepared and has been approved by the forest department. According to estimates, each wall will cost around Rs 10,000 out of which forest department will give subsidy of Rs 4,000

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