Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Eight firms granted sanctuary land

Eight firms granted sanctuary land
DNA By Kapil Dave

It took the state wildlife advisory board and the Gujarat Forest department just 90 minutes to convince chief minister Narendra Modi, and recommend to the Centre a proposal to grant hundreds of hectares of forest land, until now protected as sanctuaries for wildlife.

Five private firms and three government companies will benefit from this move which further worsens the status of five of the state's sanctuaries which are already facing very heavy pressure from human activities inside and outside.

The proposals, cleared by the state on Saturday, will now be sent to the National Wildlife Board for final approval.

A highly placed source in the state government said, "The board has cleared proposals of the Power Grid Corporation, Adani Power, Reliance Communication, BSNL, GSRDC, Vodafone, Usha Breco and the IOC.

These include parcels of land as small as 0.315 hectares to a vast expanse of 52 sq km. Decades of conservation efforts by foresters and activists in the Wild Ass sanctuary, Girnar sanctuary, Narayan Sarovar, Velavadar and Balaram-Ambaji sanctuary will be wasted."

He added, "The forest department may justify this action claiming it's a very small piece of land, but the fact is that these industries and their activities will ruin the tranquillity and privacy of the places that are essential for Gir lions, the Wild Ass, migratory birds and others."

Principal secretary, forest & environment, SK Nanda, said, "The board has cleared all the proposals placed before it because they were in the state's larger interest. The use of sanctuary land by these private companies to lay fibre-optic lines, establish power transmission towers and lay a 1.3 km road in wild ass sanctuary, or a road line in Gir, will not harm the environment. Not a single tree will be cut for these activities.''

But the government's decision has shocked many. "As it is, the government is giving away all available land at token rates to industries," said activist Mahesh Pandya, of NGO Paryavaran Mitra.

"So why give away forest land too? These developments will lead to heavy activity inside forest areas where there should be minimal human intervention.

The state has held back from declaring the sanctuaries as Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ) for the last seven years, despite supreme court orders. The apex court has ruled that the government cannot allow any activity within 10 sq km area of the ESZs."

1 comment:

Bhushan Pandya said...

Extremely sad decision. Now we hope that the National Wildlife Board refuses the proposal.

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