Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pride of Gujarat left to fend for itself

Pride of Gujarat left to fend for itself
Times of India

It seems that the Central or state governments are not concerned with the conservation of lions as neither has made adequate allocation for their conservation.

In the last three budgets, the state government allocated only Rs 8.93 crore towards conservation of the big cats; and for the 2011-12 budget there is no allocation at all. The Centre, which has taken up an Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH) scheme, has also allocated less than Rs 75 crore in the last three years.

To Congress MLA Bhagwanbhai Barad's query, the state government replied that in the last three years, from 2008-09 onwards, the Centre has sanctioned just Rs 71.24 crore. The state government replied that these were sanctioned for conservation and management of the big cats, for improving the lion habitat, eco-tourism, eco-development and for advertising and creating awareness on environment.

Of the Rs 71.24 crore sanctioned, the government spent Rs 64.08 crore on lion conservation and for improving their habitat.

A senior official said that no funds had been allocated for conservation of the Asiatic lions in Gir. When state government officials raised the issue with the Centre, they cited paucity of funds under the Central government-sponsored IDWH scheme as reason for non-availability of funds.

Significantly, the Gujarat government has sought Rs 262.36 crore for conservation initiatives. Though the grant was approved in principle, the time and allocation as well as release of funds for lions is uncertain.

Also, the Gujarat government's denial to part with lions for Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh was another reason. Sources in the know of developments claim that the highest priority is to halt the diminishing tiger population in the country and all funds are being directed towards that effort.

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