Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Etawah lion safari project poised for green signal

Etawah lion safari project poised for green signal
The Economic Times

Master plan for state's first lion safari may get final approval by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) at the meeting in Lucknow on Wednesday. Lion safari will be developed as per the CZA guidelines and funds released by the state government.

In August, authorities of the UP Forest department had sent the final master (layout) plan of the lion safari to the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and after some amendments in the plan following recommendations by the latter's expert group, final approval is awaited in a meeting with the governing authority on zoo design and lion safari, to take place in the state capital on Wednesday. Lion safari in Etawah where the Asiatic lion would be kept for breeding is also aimed at arresting extinction of the royal beast.

The master plan covers the topography and upkeep of the animal, availability of water, vegetation, climate, visitor's profile, conservation, education and research, said Forest department sources.

Sharing information on some of the recommendations of CZA, a Forest official further apprised that major thrust will be on the location and size of animal handling area, which would remain beyond the reach of visitors. "Two animal houses to be developed have a keeper gallery, therefore, enclosure should be placed beside the animal houses. There will be a separate patrol path for safari authorities besides a 3.2 km long stretch of road would come up for visitors in 50 hectares. About 300 hectares of land will be used for developing a buffer zone. Distinct colours would be used for each facility. The visitors' route will not intrude with the animal house and would be kept a safe distance away. Residential campus would be separated from lion safari by a fence," he added.

"There is plan also for plantation of grass, trees and plants. We would plant Deenanath, kareel and khair grasses to develop the lion's habitat. Similarly, a few saplings of neem, sheesham, chokhar and ardu would be planted to keep the foliage as realistic as the lion's natural habitat," said another senior Forest department official talking to TOI. Once the safari gets developed, the state government would open the place for tourists," he added.

Sujoy Banerjee, deputy conservator of forests, Chambal Wildlife Division, Agra informed the Lion Safari would now be designed and constructed as per the guidelines of the CZA in a phased manner providing a direction from CZA for the development of the project.

It might be noted here that the work on the Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav's dream project came to a halt in July after Union Environment Ministry sent a show-cause notice to state government asking it to stop all the development activities related to the project.

Union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) had then objected to the felling of babool tree undertaken in the Fisher Forest area in Etawah for the development of lion safari project. It had sent a letter to the principal secretary of the forest department on July 1, 2012 asking authorities to stop work immediately, calling it violation of Forest Conservation Act.

Nearly 50 hectares of area in Fisher Forest on Etawah-Gwalior highway close to National Chambal sanctuary and ravines of Yamuna had been acquired in the year 2005 during the regime of Mulayam Singh Yadav and was notified as a lion safari. Named after Fisher, the collector of Etawah in 1888, the forest is about 10 km away from Etawah district headquarters. Project, however, was derailed after Mulayam Singh resigned in 2007 after losing to Bahujan Samaj Party.

It was, revived after Samajwadi Party came to power in March. Around Rs 5 crore had already been allotted for the safari which is estimated to cost Rs 83 crore.

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