Wednesday, June 05, 2013

‘Mines could block possible lion corridor’

'Mines could block possible lion corridor'
The Indian Express

The five limestone mines halted by the standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) have a total expected annual capacity of almost 1.2 lakh tonnes of chemical grade limestone and are located in the Dharampur-Kajawadri region of Porbandar's Ranavav taluka, which stands between Barda, where lions are not found but slated as their future home, and Gir further south, where lions thrive.
The mines have been operating for decades (1959) and the most recent opened 20 years later, the same year Barda was declared a sanctuary and when many existing wildlife and environment laws had not yet come into force.

The current proposals are for renewal of mining leases, and Gujarat's Chief Wildlife Warden had in 2009 stated in a letter to the Union Environment Ministry that the sites did not fall in any proposed eco-fragile zones.

Partly on this opinion, the expert appraisal committee of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests granted environmental clearances to the mines in 2009 but stipulated a go-ahead from the NBWL had to be obtained before operations began.

When the issue came up before the NBWL's standing committee in its latest meeting, members raised objections, with one member stating that besides blocking a possible lion corridor, "prevalent wind direction help carry the dust and the noise of the mining operations into the precincts of the adjacent Barda Sanctuary".

"Abandoned mines are not a problem and may in fact be part of the solution. Lions can shelter there but mines in operation, that will be a major block for lion movements," said an senior officer based in Gandhinagar.

Plans to translocate lions into Barda cannot be hurried without proper assessments of available prey and trial runs where the carnivores are acclimatised to the new terrain, and that the department would await what the site inspection by NBWL members recommends, said an official requesting anonymity.

"We don't want to put lions in cages, haul them over in trucks and release them in some other forest. There is no such requirement as the lion population is increasing and they are extending their home range on their own. Our job is to prepare safe habitat for them to move in," said a top forest officer in Junagadh.

Where have lions dispersed so far?

Besides the Gir forests' 1,412 sq kms across Junagadh and Amreli districts, lions have fanned out to gauchar, wasteland and revenue areas that spread from east to west over 400 sq km in Amreli, Bhavnagar and southern parts of Porbandar districts.

These areas are known as Greater Gir and host six metapopulations of lions settled across Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, Girnar Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary, Paniya Sanctuary, and coastal and inland areas of Junagadh, Amreli, Porbandar and Bhavnagar.

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