Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gujarat seeks Rs200 cr from Centre for lion conservation

Gujarat seeks Rs200 cr from Centre for lion conservation
DNA By Jumana Shah

Fighting for the long-term wellbeing of Asiatic lions in their Gir abode, the Gujarat government has again demanded over Rs200 crore from the Planning Commission and the Union ministry of environment and forest for lion conservation.

Following up on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's meeting with Planning Commission officials in New Delhi last week, forest officials in the state have revised their earlier proposal for rehabilitation and conservation, adding several new scientific initiatives to conserve the lions in their last abode in Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in Junagadh.

"Funds are needed for rehabilitation of Maldhari families living in the forest and also for several other lion conservation projects. We have sent a revised proposal of Rs200 crore to the Planning Commission," said SK Nanda, principal secretary, environment and forest.

In a fiery meeting with central officials last week, Modi had alleged discrimination in allotment of wildlife conservation fund to Gujarat, as the state had been refusing to part with lions for Madhya Pradesh. Gujarat is facing a legal battle in the Supreme Court over the movement of lions to MP's Kuno sanctuary.

"Gujarat has done a very good job in conserving the lion population, and we have always been spending from our pockets. We need more funds now for better conservation of lions," the chief minister is reported to have said in his presentation.

While a confirmation from the ministry is awaited, sources in Delhi said the proposal was "pretty good and is being looked at in a favourable light."

"The aid is likely to be sanctioned soon," the source added.

Gujarat government and the Centre has been locked in a stalemate over lion conservation for long, with the state blaming the latter for paying more attention to tigers' conservation at the expense of lions.

Centre has also hit back at Gujarat, alleging politics behind Modi government's refusal to relocate some lions to Kuno. However, if officials in the forest and environment ministry are to be believed, the new minister of state Jairam Ramesh is not keen on dragging his feet over the issue. The minister is expected to visit Gir forest to oversee the lion conservation efforts either this week or after Diwali.

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