Shrink ESZ, be ready for disastrous impact'
The Times of India City
RAJKOT: Experts and wildlife conservationists have warned of disastrous consequences if the state government drastically reduces the eco-sensitive zone(ESZ) around the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, the last abode of Asiatic lions.
Last month, the forest department had sent a modified proposal of ESZ to the union ministry of forests and environment (MoEF) reducing the ESZ to just 500 m in place of the earlier 8 km to 17.9 km.
"If the ESZ is going to be reduced drastically, it would defeat the purpose of forest and wildlife conservation. ESZ is for the safe safe movement of lions and biodiversity around the Gir forest. The move will degrade eco-system around thet forest and eventually lead to more human-wildlife conflict as hazardous development will take place in vicinity of critical fringe of GWS,'' said Bhushan Pandya, renowned wildlife photographer .
While the government maintains that the decision to shrink the ESZ cover was taken following representations of locals, sources close to the development said that there was no such consultation with the people living around Gir, who are the main stakeholders of ESZ.
"Forest department has to go to people living in nearby villages and explain to them the importance of ESZ. Moreover, such an important decision, like shrinking ESZ, has to be taken by an experts' committee and they should take people into confidence. Even if government wants to re-size it, it has right to do it but ESZ should be remodified taking in account of wildlife and not anyone's vested interests,'' G A Patel, former principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden told TOI. "There is an urgent need to bring clarity on parts of ESZ among local villagers and explain Dos and Don'ts' in ESZ and assure them that it would not affect their livelihood," said V C Soni, wildlife expert and member of state wildlife advisory board.
As per latest census, there are around 523 lions in Gir, half of which live on the sanctuary's fringes or outside.