Madhya Pradesh presses for lions' share, but Gujarat in no mood to oblige
Indian Express By Bashir Pathan
Gandhinagar, September 11 MP seeks SC intervention for translocation of Gir lions to its Kuno-Palpur sanctuary
Even as the Gujarat government has initiated measures to develop the forest area in and around the world famous Gir Wildflife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh has pressed its demand to translocate some of the Gir lions to the 344 km Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in the state.
In response to a PIL, the Supreme Court had recently referred the case involving Madhya Pradesh's demand to the National Board for Wildlife. It had also directed it to submit a detailed report on the issue.
"As directed by the SC, the National Board for Wildlife has just submitted its report to the apex court, recommending the translocation of some lions to our Kuno sanctuary. We are awaiting the court's orders," said P B Gangopadhyay, Madhya Pradesh Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) .
He told Newsline over the phone from Bhopal that his department has already taken up a Centre-aided Rs 24 crore Asiatic lion Introduction Project to accommodate some Gir lions, provided Gujarat agrees to transfer them to the Kuno sanctuary. "We have already relocated about 24 villages on its periphery. Besides, the department has also created enough prey-base for the Asiatic lions in case they are shifted here," he said.
Incidentally, the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department has also plans to obtain some pairs of lions from zoos in Hyderabad, Delhi and Bhopal, for breeding in the Kuno sanctuary. Gandgopadhyay added: "We have mooted this proposal, but it will take at least three generations (15-20 years) for zoo-bred lions to be naturalised. We believe it will be easier for us to habitat Gir lions in the sanctuary rather than wait for such a long naturalising period."
But Gujarat has resolved to resist any move to transfer some of the Gir lions to the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary.
Gujarat Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel, said: "If our neighbours pin hope on the apex court to issue orders in their favour, Gujarat will also give a legal fight and ensure that the Asiatic lions as demanded by Madhya Pradesh are not transferred to Kuno-Palpur sanctuary."
He said the conditions in Kuno-Palpur are not congenial for the Gir lions. Besides, the presence of tigers in Kuno is bound to cause frequent clashes between the two apex predators over territories, he added.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Narendra Modi has said that the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre has been ignoring the lion conservation and habitat development programmes in Gujarat.
Last week, while chairing the Gujarat State Wildlife Advisory Board meeting at Gandhinagar, Modi demanded that the Centre take up conservation of the Asiatic lions on the lines of 'Project Tiger'. He directed senior officials of the state Forest department to draft a comprehensive "Project Lion" plan and submit the same to the Centre.
The CM has also demanded that the Centre allocate funds for the protection and conservation of Asiatic lions, and also for an overall development of the Gir sanctuary and its surrounding forest areas. At the meeting, he asked the Board members to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and make a strong representation for the allocation of funds. Incidentally, Modi had also raised this issue at a recent meeting of the Planning Commission in Delhi.
Pradeep Khanna, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Gujarat, said: "Last year, the state government had submitted a detailed project report to the Union Environment and Forest Ministry and sought Rs 61 crore for lion conservation and other developmental activities in and around the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary."
He added: "We have been pursuing this with the Centre on a regular basis, but it has yet to respond to the Rs 61 crore project report."
He added that if the Centre could announce 'Project Tiger' and provide funds of over Rs 200 crore for the protection and conservation of the big cat in as many as 27 tiger reserves across the country, then a "Project Lion" for Gujarat should also be implemented.
The total area of Gir sanctuary is 1,412 sq kms, and it accommodates 359 Asiatic lions.