Proposed 'new tourism zone' under HC scanner
The Times Of India
AHMEDABAD: The proposed expansion plans for Gir sanctuary in the form of a "New Tourism Zone" at Chikal Kuba in Dhari, to the south-east of Sasan Gir, is under the scrutiny of the high court following the complaint from the anonymous naturalist.
The complainant alleged authorities purposely refrained from initiating the process of declaring the area a critical wildlife habitat, thought it is mandatory according to a Supreme Court order. "If they do so, tourism has to be regulated/curtailed for the benefit of wildlife as at the premier tiger reserves," he claims.
The HC has taken cognizance of the letter and started proceedings in public interest. The letter has urged for reconsideration of expansion plans with the argument that it will put the lion's survival in jeopardy. The writer expressed apprehension that such a tourism zone would "result in the gradual loss of vital wildlife habitats and the very essential natural corridors" for animals.
The recent sealing drive of hospitality units around Gir sanctuary is based on this complaint that mushrooming hotels have hurt the movement of animals, especially lions and leopards. He has also cited that the number of tourists has increased manifold in last few years.
The complainant argues that the authorities failed to manage one tourism zone in Gir, so they cannot be expected to protect wildlife in another zone, particularly when the policy is more geared towards tourism than protecting the flora and fauna. The complainant questioned whether lions are income-generating facilities. He has expressed apprehension that this model would be replicated in the new tourism zone. "This area falls under the vital corridors of Asiatic lions which use them for movements from Gir sanctuary to the coastal areas of Una and Rajula", the letter read.