Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Madhya Pradesh's 'SOS' to get Modi's pride lions

Madhya Pradesh's 'SOS' to get Modi's pride lions
The Times of India

In its first communique after Narendra Modi's swearing in as Prime Minister, Madhya Pradesh government sent a proposal to ministry of environment and forests seeking a budget of Rs 79 crore to shift Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Kuno-Palpur wildlife sanctuary in state's Shivpuri district.

Earlier, Modi-ruled Gujarat had lost the case of shifting lions to Shivraj Singh Chouhan's government after 8 years of legal battle. The budget includes Rs 20 crore for infrastructural development like construction of hospital and procurement of new vehicles and Rs 59 crore for relocation and rehabilitation of two more villages within Kuno wildlife sanctuary.

"The expert committee on relocation of lions had advised us to expand the sanctuary area before shifting of the first pride of lions. Two more villages will have to be relocated," state's chief wildlife warden and principal chief conservator forest (PCCF) Narendra Kumar told TOI.

State has already spent Rs 1,453 lakh for relocation of 1,543 families from 24 revenue villages from the sanctuary while preparing an alternate habitat for Asiatic lions.

Kuno Palpur with an area of 345 sq km was found as an alternate home for Asiatic lions during a feasibility study conducted by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in 1993. Two other potential sites were Darrah-Jawahar Sagar and Sitamata sanctuary in Rajasthan.

To improve the habitat before re-introduction of lions, various management interventions have been taken up in the sanctuary that included relocation of villages from the sanctuary, strengthening protection and habitat improvement. Based on proposal received from Madhya Pradesh, the Union government under a Centrally sponsored scheme - Development of National Parks and Sanctuaries - had sanctioned and released Rs 1545 lakh in 2007-08 to pave way for translocation of lions despite protests from Modi, who stubbornly refused to let the lions go. Modi had been arguing for years that Gir lions are the "pride of Gujarat" and in court too, the lions were described as "family members who could not be parted with". Gujarat government also argued in court that Madhya Pradesh had failed to protect its tigers in Panna and the Gir lions may meet the same fate. On April 15, 2013, after eight years of litigation, Supreme Court cleared the translocation of lions amid protests from locals. The apex court ruled lions should have a second home if an epidemic or fires wipe out the endangered species at one location.

After Modi moved from Gandhi Nagar to Delhi, state's hopes of getting the magnificent species on its land have faded.

Gujarat government has already moved a curative petition in Supreme Court as its last legal resort to retain its Asiatic lions. Two Gujarat-based NGOs have also filed separate petitions challenging translocation of lions jto Kuno.

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