Wednesday, February 09, 2011

‘MoEF condition may make Girnar ropeway non-viable’

'MoEF condition may make Girnar ropeway non-viable'
Indian Express By Hiral Dave

First of six conditions is alternative alignment from

Bhesan to mountain top

The very first of the six conditions laid down by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) while giving its in-principle nod to the Girnar Ropeway project (using an alternative alignment) may render it non-feasible from the environment and tourism point of view, say experts.

This simply means re-doing the project from scratch, from a whole new design to land acquisition, which in proposed alignment will mean incorporating several kilometres of land in the heart of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, they have said. Besides, Junagadh is the main city and the tourist centre, unlike Bhesan, which is a small town some 26 km in the interiors of south-west of Junagadh.

Union Minister Jairam Ramesh has in a letter to the state government listed out six conditions including completely changing the alignment of the ropeway.

He said the state government will conduct a study to consider alternate alignment of the ropeway project, preferably along the Bhesan side with a view to ensure that it does not cut across the prime vulture habitat, and also minimises disturbance to their nesting, roosting and ranging sites of the long-billed vultures and other wildlife species and submit a report within two months.

As per the current blueprint, the alignment is along Bhavnath Taleti, which is on the foothills of Mount Girnar. Bhavnath Taleti is a revenue area and along with that revenue area, seven hectares of Gir Reserve Forest area has been developed for the ropeway project at a cost of Rs 90 crore. The ropeway distance between Bhavnathi Taleti to Ambaji is 2.3 km and the ropeway height is 850 metres.

Deepak Kaplish, western region head of Usha Breco Limited, which has been awarded the ropeway project, said: "Bhesan is located exactly on the backside of Bhavnath Taleti. To reach Bhesan from Bhavnath Taleti one has to walk 35 km through Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and by road it is 26 km from Vadal, a village some 10 km from Junagadh city. If we consider changing the alignment to Bhesan, as per preliminary survey, we need to acquire forest land, and the project is likely to disturb wildlife, which is the only habitat of the Asiatic lions."

He added: "But as per the ministry's order, Usha Breco Limited has begun a detailed survey and will submit a report to the state forest department within two months."

Local politicians from different parties who have been rooting for the project for a couple of decades now also opined that to the alter alignment to Bhesan is nearly impossible.

"I do not think it is possible. It's a dense forest area. Bhavnath Taleti, which is a revenue site, is the best possible option," said Junagadh BJP MLA Mahendra Mashru.

Congress leader and Junagadh Mayor Satish Virda said: "The alignment from Bhesan is not possible. The ministry has made a suggestion. We can do a study and submit back the facts. It will be up to the state government to choose the site."

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