Friday, September 25, 2009

Man-animal conflict is a 'sensitive' reality of Gir

Man-animal conflict is a 'sensitive' reality of Gir
DNA By Jumana Shah

Like in most inhabited part of the world, man-animal conflict is a distinct reality even in the Gir forests in Junagadh -- the planet's last abode of Asiatic lions. A plan for rehabilitating 210 families on the Revenue land adjoining the wildlife sanctuary from the reserve forest area around Bhavnath Taleti temple, has brought the focus back on the difficult task of wildlife conservation in a populated area.

A day after DNA reported the proposed felling of 1,550 trees in the Rupayatan area of the Gir forest, which is currently the habitat of a pride of lions, forest officials, former foresters, activists and farmers joined the chorus that expanding the lions' habitat into Greater Gir is a long-winding complicated process.

"This is a sensitive situation. Both projects (removing human encroachments from the sanctuary and maintaining lions' habitat) are vital. The fact is that the land is ultimately outside the sanctuary and it is a known fact that lions have spilled out of the sanctuary area long back," said ex-wildlife warden GA Patel, who had almost a decade back, initially conceptualised the Greater Gir project.

According to estimates, at least one third of the 359 lions have made their home out of the sanctuary area. The Greater Gir Project is the Gujarat government's alibi to stop the relocation of a few prides to Madhya Pradesh. The project will include nearly 200 sq km area - the entire corridor up to Palitana in Bhavnagar and Mahuva in South Savarkundla and Jesar as protected and eco-fragile zone. This expansion is in addition to the 180 sq km area of Girnar hills to the 1,460 sq km of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and Puniya and Mitiyala forest areas to the sanctuary in the past.

Another lawyer and activist in the region Manish Vaidya says the entire economy of Gir is primarily based on land and it will be very difficult for government to acquire land from the residents. "Ownership of land is everything here. Government does not have that much money so as to compensate the farmers at market value. And, if they aren't compensated, they will not budge," he said.

Principal secretary SK Nanda also conceded the tight rope the government was walking on the issue but assured that only the minimal required trees will be cut and not a single extra.

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