Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fearing for vultures, SC panel picks holes in Mt Girnar ropeway project

Fearing for vultures, SC panel picks holes in Mt Girnar ropeway project
The Indian Express

The much-awaited ropeway project at Mount Girnar in Junagadh may see some changes following a recent report by the central empowered committee (CEC) formed by the Supreme Court, which has expressed concerns for safety and security for vultures roosting at the proposed site.

The three-member CEC had visited the site in November last and it recently submitted its report in the Supreme Court.

"In its report, the committee has expressed concern over safety and security of vultures roosting there," said S K Nanda, principal secretary (forest and environment). "While the state government won the case in SC earlier, the committee's report might result into some changes in the plans."

Nanda, however, said any changes would be planned only after going through the detailed report.

The ropeway project, first proposed in 1995, is expected to boost tourism at the famous pilgrimage site for Jains.

In February 2011, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest had given its in-principle clearance for the project, with a condition to consider an alignment change to protect the vulture population on Mount Girnar.

As suggested by the MoEF, the state government had surveyed four possible routes, including base sites at Bhesan, Datar, Bilkha and Balamgaun.

When the project was first mooted in in 1995, Jains had opposed it, saying a ropeway project would turn this pilgrimage site into a tourist spot.

There are several temples located on various hills along Mount Girnar, which has 9,999 steps. The absence of a ropeway has restricted the number of visitors so far.

Later, environment groups raised the issue of protection of vultures, Girnari Giddhs, which are found in moderate number on Mount Girnar.

At 3,400 feet from sea level, Girnar is the highest peak in Gujarat. Girnar has five principal peaks — Ambaji, Gorakhnath, Guru Dattatraya, Oghad Ansuya and Kalka. Ambaji is the highest at 3,400 feet. The area of Girnar hills is around 70 miles.

At present, visitors climb the hill with the stairway, which has 9,999 steps. Ambaji is located at around 5,000 steps. The final destination of Mount Girnar is Guru Dattatrya. A ropeway project will provide connectivity upto Ambaji. There are Jain and Hindu temples on these peaks.

According to the blue print of the project, its alignment is along Bhavnath Taleti, which is the foothill of Mount Girnar in Junagadh city. Ropeway distance between Bhavnathi Taleti to Ambaji is 2.3 km and ropeway's height is around 850 metres.

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