Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gir attracts 33K visitors, earns 42L during Diwali

Gir attracts 33K visitors, earns 42L during Diwali
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

Call it the Bachchan effect or the Diwali rush, the Lion Conservation Society of the state government has managed to secure more funds for lion conservation this year. The Gir sanctuary and the Devaliya Interpretation Centre have recorded an income of around Rs 42 lakh in the last ten days alone.

This, an official said, is nearly 20 per cent of the total collection in the tourist season last year when the income from October 10, 2009, to May 15, 2010 was Rs 2.10 crore. Last year, a total of 2,05,592 tourists visited the Gir sanctuary during the season. But this year, between November 4 and November 13 alone, there were 33,222 visitors, said the official.

Deputy conservator of forest Sandeep Kumar said that all records were broken during this festive season. Till date, the highest income of Devaliya recorded in a single day was Rs 4,68,000, in early 2000. But this year, the highest income in a single day was Rs 5,39,250.

In Gir, Kumar said, the highest income was on November 9. This was Rs 1,75,200 from 1,752 tourists. The income of Gir National Park has never crossed the Rs 80,000 mark in the past. The average income per day in the past was around Rs 60,000-Rs 70,000.

In fact, senior officials in Gandhinagar said that the number of visitors, too, has gone up this year. In Gir sanctuary, at the national park, the number of foreign tourists has gone up by 25-30 per cent while in Devaliya it has gone up by nearly 30 per cent.

This year, after the Khushboo Gujarat Ki advertisement campaign featuring superstar Amitabh Bachchan, there was a demand to increase the number of permits, said Kumar. "The forest department identified two routes on which 30 vehicles could move at the same time and therefore the number of permits was increased from 90 to 150."

The income generated from the tourist was deposited with the Lion Conservation Society formed by the state government after the poaching incident in 2007. Government officials said the society takes up development work in the Gir region. This includes covering the wells, and ensuring that the officials and staff are well equipped, said the officer.

The officer also said that despite increasing the number of permits, there was a huge queue of visitors from 7 in the morning and many even had to return home without the permit.

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