Saturday, October 20, 2007

Modi had promised big not very long ago


Modi had promised big not very long ago

Indian Express

Gandhinagar, October 19 “My government will not allow even a single Asiatic lion to die an unnatural death. And for this, the government has decided to set up the Gujarat State Lion Conservation Society. Funds for this would be made available from the Rs 40-crore Project Lion package.”

So proclaimed Chief Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Sasan Gir in April last when he went there to take stock of the situation arising out of the killing of eight lions. Now that 5 more big cats, including 3 lionesses and 2 cubs, were reported killed in Dhari taluka of Amreli district on Friday, no one knows the fate of the Rs 40-crore Project Lion package that had been announced by the CM about six months ago.

Not only this, the State Forest department had mooted a Rs 60 crore proposal over nine months ago, under which it envisaged to set up a gene pool to conserve the genetic diversity of Asiatic lions in Gir forest and its surrounding areas. It was Modi again who had, during a meeting of the State Wildlife Advisory Board, suggested setting up of such gene pools. Though the government has accepted this proposal in principle, the gene pool project is yet to take off.

“The Gujarat State Lion Conservation Society is very much in place. But, we have to have adequate funds to implement the Rs 40-crore Project Lion package. The Society has a provision to mobilise funds from its individual and institutional members, as well as from national and international agencies like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCNNR). We have still not been able to mobilise funds to implement the project,” concedes a senior Forest official.

The official told The Indian Express on Friday that it was not possible for his department to implement the Project Lion project without financial assistance from individuals or institutions or any other donor agencies. He also admitted that the funds constraint was delaying the implementation of the gene pool project. “We are pursuing this project, too, with all seriousness,” was all that he had to say.

Rattled by the poaching incidents in March-April last, the government had also announced the setting up of a high-powered committee headed by the Chief Secretary to suggest measures for the protection and conservation of Gir lions. But, the committee has not met yet to deliberate, among other things, the contentious issue of frequent poaching of Asiatic lions.

An autonomous body, the Society has been set up with the main objective of mobilising additional resources for conservation of lions and its associate flora and fauna in the Gir National Park and adjoining areas. The Society has a 16-member executive committee headed by the State Chief Wildlife Warden.

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