Over 40 hectares forest in lion's abode to be cleared for university
The Times Of India
RAJKOT: Wildlife conservationists have raised an alarm over the proposed clearing of nearly 44 hectares of lush green forest in the Asiatic lion's abode to constructBhakt Kavi Narsinh Mehta University (BKNMU) in Khadia village near Junagadh.
The BKNMU has issued a tender notice of Rs 7.23 lakh inviting bids to chop forest trees near the village, located on the fringes of Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary, home to nearly 45 lions. Moreover, Khadia is located in the eco sensitive zone notified around the sanctuary in 2013 where construction activity is restricted.
"Farm houses, hotels, resorts and such other activities that might lead to unregulated tourism shall be strictly cont rolled and be monitored in villages Patla, Vishal Hadmatiya, Mendpara, Dudhala, Malida, Pasvala, Kariya, Samatpara, Patwad, Chhodwadi, Nava Naghaniya, Mandlikpur, Bandhala, Bhalgam, Mandanpara, Toraniya and Khadia," the ESZ notification says. The land on which the uni versity is proposed to be built was allotted to the fo rest department (extension) and it has carried out plantation in 40ha area from 2007 to 2013 to improve the biodiversity adjoining the sanctuary .
" Area earmarked for varsity is a lions' corridor critical for movement of wild animals. Moreover, it falls under the ESZ. We had lodged our protests when government had first announced the plan. University can be set up anywhere but not at cost of our natural heritage,'' said wildlife conservationist Pranav Vaghashiya from Junagadh.
"The area where the university is proposed is a lions' corridor as it is close to the sanctuary.If buildings are constructed, it will adversely affect movement of wildlife and the lions will be forced to venture into human habitats. This will increase chances of human-wildlife conflict," R Senthil Kumaran, DCF , Junagadh, told TOI.
According to the ESZ norms, all activities in Girnar ESZ shall be governed by provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and Environment Protection Act, 1986.
Dr F A Sheikh, registrar, BKNMU, said they have acquired the necessary permissions from the forest department to go ahead with the chopping of trees. "Some permissions are under process and we will go ahead with the due process," Sheikh told TOI.
"It is because of forest department's seven years of perseverance that the area around Khadia village has flourished with rich biodiversity and became prime area for wildlife habitat. We have seen lions preying and moving on the land allotted to BKNMU," a forest department officer told TOI.
The ESZ guideline clearly says there shall be no consequential reduction in forest area, green area and agricultural area and an unused or unproductive agricultural area may be re-forested.