Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gir's plastic heap worries foresters

Gir's plastic heap worries foresters
Times of India

The day is not far when an Asiatic lion chokes on a plastic bag in the only place it calls home - the Gir forest. Environment activists have removed six tonnes of plastic from around Mount Girnar, which is home to 24 lions on the edge of Gir sanctuary.

Every year, lakhs of devotees come for the four-day 'Lili Parikrama' that begins and ends at the Bhavnath temple on Mount Girnar. This year the parikrama began on November 6. In the process, devotees leave behind pouches of country liquor, gutkha packets, water bottles and wrappings of wafers and biscuits.

The fair, organized by local people, sadhus, police and forest department officials, has now been curtailed to 9.6 km from the original 19.3 km that it was spread across. But the mountain of plastic only seems to be growing in size every year, especially since it has become a huge tourist attraction due to the 'Khushboo Gujarat Ki' ad campaigns. M A Kant, the Junagadh range forest officer , said they loaded more than 15 tractors with garbage after cleaning the forest.

Junagadh MLA Mahendra Mashru , who helped in the clean-up , said, "We will need at least three to four more rounds to ensure all the plastic is removed from the forest." Forest officials are worried after post-mortem revealed there were plastic bags in the stomach of many of the herbivores that died in the forest. Herbivores like Chital, Sambhar and Nilgai are the main prey base of the big cats. The plastic waste when consumed by herbivores clogs their intestine, which results in death. An officer said lions usually don't eat plastic waste but there was a fear they may consume it while feasting on a herbivore. Dr Meena Venkataraman , a member of Wildlife Institute of India said, "The central government has already banned plastic bags and should definitely be kept out of a delicate ecosystem like Gir."

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