India to follow Gujarat conservation model
THE TIMES OF INDIA CITY
Ahmedabad: The success of Gujarat's community-based wildlife conservation model will soon be replicated across the country . The Union ministry of forest and environment has proposed employing the 'Van Praani Mitra' model in sanctuary areas and adjoining localities across the country .
The 12-member committee developing the National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP) to be put into effect from 2017 is also keen on following the Gujarat model. The NWAP committee headed by J C Kala, former Union secretary will now have its next meeting on or around February 20 at Gir.
Besides the `van mitra' model, successful models of rescue and treatment of wild animals followed in Gujarat will also be implemented in other states. It is worthy to note that concerned officials from several states have already undergone training at the Sasan rescue centre.
HS Singh, a member of the National Board for Wildlife, said that Gujarat has successfully implemented good practices in wildlife conservation and they should be replicated in other places. "If the model of appointing `van mitras' is implemented across the country , it would definitely curb illegal activity related to wildlife, and will help in long term conservation of wildlife in the country ," said Singh.
Principal chief conservator of forest, S C Pant, who is also part of the committee developing the 15-year action plan, said, "Gujarat first adopted the scheme of recruiting `friends of wildlife' after the poaching of eight lions that took place outside Gir forest in 2007. To ensure communitybased conservation of wildlife and lions, the forest department appointed 300 `van mitras' who bridge the gap between locals and forest officials and also inform the department about wildlife related incidents and illegal activities".
These `van mitras' are paid only Rs1,000 per month and are provided dresses of forest beat guards.
"If any lion enters a village or a house or falls in a well, the first job of the van mitra is to inform the forest department, and then put on the beat guard uniform to reach the spot and prevent local mobs from harming the animal," added Pant.
In order to provide immediate rescue, the forest department in Gujarat has opened a rescue centre in each district inhabited by lions. Forest officials said that on an average, over 800-odd animals are rescued from lion territory every year.