Centre has given lion conservation a short shrift: Govt
Times of India by Himanshu Kaushik
The Central government has spent almost nothing on conservation of lions, which are already threatened by poaching in their last abode in Gir. The Centre released only Rs 1.60 crore in the last three years under the assistance for development of national parks and sanctuaries, part of which was also spent on lion conservation. The last census showed a population of 359 lions, 40 per cent of which have strayed outside the protected habitat.
However, there has been no special allocation for lions on the lines of Project Tiger. Minister of state for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh, in a reply to a written question by Panchmahal MP Prabhatsinh Chauhan, said that the Centre had not launched any project dedicated to save lions. However, under the centrally-sponsored scheme Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats the ministry provides financial and technical assistance to government of Gujarat for various activities aimed at conservation of lion and its habitat.
Officials in the forest department said after the poaching incident in March 2007, a special team was sent by the Centre to look into it and also suggest measures to curb its recurrence. But there was no project announced to protect it. The state had hoped to get special grants after poaching of lions. The Central grants were released for specific sanctuary-related projects in Gir, Mitiyala and Paniya which have a sizeable lion population. The officials said if the kind of allocation made for Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh, which is Rs 64 crore, had been given to Gujarat, the forest department could have developed a new sanctuary, which would have be isolated from Gir.
Another forest official said the task force formed by the Gujarat government has made several recommendation like use of GPS-based tracking and other modern surveillance tracking establishment of gene pool population and establishment of a genetic laboratory for cryopreservation of genetic material. However, despite such recommendations, there have been no allocation. The department will have to send the projects in phases for approval which would take time. He said there was a need for Project Lion on the lines of Project Tiger.
SPENDINGS BY CENTRAL GOVERNMENT
Name of sanctuaries Year (amount in Rs lakh)
2006-07 2007-08 2008-09
Gir37.40 40.00 32.00
Mitiyala15.68 8.00 2.70
Paniya7.70 12.00 4.94