'Kuno expansion must to house lions'
The Times of India
AHMEDABAD: The Union government has admitted in the Lok Sabha that Madhya Pradesh will have to enlarge sanctuary size in order to translocate Asiatic lions to Kuno-Palpur from Gujarat's Sasan Gir.
According to the original project prepared for the translocation, a sanctuary area of around 700 sq km was required. The Gujarat government made it clear in a meeting in February that Madhya Pradesh will have to first satisfy the requirement of creating the adequate sanctuary size before even talking about moving lions from Gir. Kuno-Palpur is currently spread over 349 sq km.
The statement about the required enlargement was made by the environment and forests minister, Prakash Javdekar, in reply to a question from Madhya Pradesh MP Jyotiraditya Scindia. Javdekar stated that an expert committee had been formed to crystallize a plan for the translocation of lions in accordance with the guidelines issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Gujarat officials pointed out that this was for the first time that the Union government had accepted that the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary needed to be enlarged. Officials said that Madhya Pradesh was dragging its feet on the expansion as it will have to relocate several big villages and even those villages which have been rehabilitated in the vicinity of the sanctuary. The officials said Madhya Pradesh has been claiming that the buffer area and the sanctuary space together accounted for 700 sq km, but were silent about the declaring the zone as a sanctuary.
Officials said that declaring the area as a sanctuary would mean that a swath of around 2-10 sq km will have be reserved as an eco-sensitive zone, which will lead to stoppage of all activity including construction of residences. The officials said that once the sanctuary was declared, Madhya Pradesh would be required to take up all studies including the prey-base census which will have to be conducted for at least twelve months, covering all seasons and habitat.