Sunday, February 03, 2013

Collector throws open Gir at night

Collector throws open Gir at night
Times of India By Vijaysinh Parmar & Himanshu Kaushik

It is official now. You can enjoy a night safari in Girnar, one of the last abodes of the Asiatic lions. Acting on complaints received via the state government's Swagat online programme, collector Manish Bhardwaj issued directions that the sanctuary gates should be open for temple priests, workers and devotees during the night. This effectively opens them to the common public.

According to senior officials, these orders are in violation of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Clause 29 of the said act clearly states: "The power to grant permit is with the chief wildlife warden who may on application grant to any person a permit to enter or reside in the sanctuary for transaction of lawful business with any person residing in the sanctuary.

Section 2 of the clause says that the permit to enter or reside in a sanctuary shall be issued subject to conditions.

However, senior officials said the collector - based on the complaint received via the District Swagat programme - issued such an order on January 24, 2013. A wildlife expert said: "Even if the collector was so sure that the forest department was wrong, he could have issued the orders but included a clause 'subject to approval of the Chief Wildlife Warden or the Gujarat State Wildlife Board'. But the collector just issued the orders." The Gir sanctuary, which has about 135 temples is home to 32-odd lions, and is spread across 180 sq km.

Revenue officials said the complainant claimed that workers and devotees were harassed by the forest department in the night and the department had been collecting fines from devotees and workers. The collector, acting on the complaint states that there was substance in the complaints and hence the gates of the sanctuary should be opened. He has however, kept a rider, saying that anyone found violating the Wildlife Protection Act in the sanctuary will be prosecuted. The collector has also asked the Deputy Conservator of Forests to send the action taken report immediately.

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