Friday, September 18, 2009

Girnar ropeway gets entangled in political web

Girnar ropeway gets entangled in political web
DNA Correspondent

Politics has taken front seat in the controversial Girnar Ropeway Project which plans constructing a ropeway to the Girnar shrine through the Gir sanctuary. After much legal debate in Gujarat, the project is now finally awaiting clearance from the National Board for Wildlife in India. Activists in the state have raised a serious alarm over disturbing the vulture nests falling on the way of the proposed ropeway.

The state's ruling party BJP is lobbying for the clearance of the project, citing huge tourism opportunities for the locals of Junagadh. However, at the Board's latest meeting on Wednesday, the issue "boomeranged" for the party, whose workers in Junagadh have been pushing for the approval of the project since decades.

Union minister of state, forest and environment, Jairam Ramesh said he would visit the site himself for inspection before giving approval. The political implications of this might prove tricky for BJP's MLA Mahendra Mashru, who is championing the cause of the Junagadh residents.

"He will have to host a Congress minister's visit to his constituency to get the permission," an activist close to the developments said, adding that after winning the Junagadh corporation elections, the Congress workers are active in the constituency and are expected to take credit of the clearance of the project. "This will not serve the BJP's political purpose at all, but they are in a spot over this," he said.

Forest officials have admitted that over 12,000 trees are likely to be chopped for the project. After claiming that there are 'no' vulture nests in these trees to be affected by the ropeway project, the company constructing the ropeway has admitted in a written communication to NBWL of vulture nests in the region. In the last meeting of NBWL in July, it was decided to get an expert report on the site.

The report conceded that several vulture nests will be permanently damaged
because of the ropeway.An alternated route has been suggested in the report.
Feasibility of the alternate route is also expected to be examined during the minister's visit.

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