Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Sasan bandh observed to press for even smaller ESZ


Sasan bandh observed to press for even smaller ESZ


Ahmedabad: Despite the expert committee for the eco-sensitive zone(ESZ)shinking the ESZ around Gir sanctuary — extending to between 0.5km and 9.4km away from the sanctuary boundary — locals in Sasan have launched an agitation demanding that the ESZ be shrunk to a uniform 0.5km away from the boundary, instead of it extending to the maximum of 9.4km in some parts.

Residents of Talala and Sasan observed a bandh on Friday, to press their demand to further shrink the ESZ, to 0.5km from the boundary all round. Led by Pravin Ram, the leader of the Adhikar Manch, they have launched an agitation for this.


On April 11, the expert committee on ESZs had met for its 25th meeting, chaired by Dr 
Amita Prasad, additional secretary of the ministry of environment, forests and climate change. The minutes of the meeting show that the committee had then cleared the reduction of the ESZ around Gir sanctuary and recommended that the changes be notified. The committee had raised the near limit of the ESZ to 0.5km from 0km and cut the far limit from 17.9km to 9.4km.


Ram said, "If residents near Dhari can have the ESZ end just 0.5km away, why can't residents of Talala taluka get the same benefit. We are not against the conservation of lions. Local residents have help to save the lion and taken care of them in the area. It is because of local residents that the lion population has increased. Residents raised several objections, but these were not considered. Due to the ESZ, farmers can't sow crops that grow higher than four feet and have to approach the forest department to renovate of build houses."


Ram said their agitation would be intensified if the government does not get the ESZ reduced to 0.5km.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Records show shrinking of ESZs finalized before HC stay


Records show shrinking of ESZs finalized before HC stay



AHMEDABAD: Even as the Gujarat high court on April 19 had ordered a stay on issuance of final notification by the Centre on declaring the Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) around Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, it has emerged that the Expert Committee on ESZ had already cleared the area reduction of ESZs proposed in Gujarat and recommended them for final notification on April 11.


The committee chaired by Dr Amita Prasad, additional secretary of ministry of environment, forest and climate change, had apparently met on April 11 for the committee's 25th meeting in New Delhi. Minutes of the meeting show that the Eco-Sensitive Zone revisions had been cleared and sent for final notification.

Sources in the Union MoEF ministry said the April 11 meeting had cleared the revised proposals for Nalsarovar, Hingolgarh and Porbandar wildlife sanctuaries, besides the revision for Gir ESZ, following a proposal forwarded by the state government.

Sources in the ministry said that the April 11 meeting had been convened for taking up just one proposal of Maharashtra and eight proposals of Gujarat.

The other two proposals that were cleared included finalizing the ESZ limits of Barda and Velavadar wildlife sanctuaries. The ESZ expert committee shrunk the revised ESZ for Gir by increasing the near limit from 0 km to 0.5 km and slashing the far limit from 17.9 km to 9.4 km.

The committee had also reconsidered and cleared the revised proposal for Nalsarovar, Hingolgarh and Porbandar wildlife sanctuaries while it rejected the revision proposal for Gaga wildlife sanctuary and Khijadia wildlife sanctuary.

Ironically, the ESZ committee in its meetings held between October 19 and October 29, 2016, had already approved all these proposals for final notification.

The minutes of the April 11 meeting, while clearing the proposal for Gir, reads, "The Chairperson pointed out that the Gir Sanctuary possesses high visibility and has international recognition and therefore, optimization of the extent (ESZ boundaries) proposed by the state should not adversely affect the biodiversity of the protected area."

"However, the Chairperson emphasized to maintain minimum distance of 500 metre where zero extent is proposed and map to be revised accordingly," the minutes mention.

"After deliberations, the Committee recommended the proposal for final notification subject to submission of revised map with minimum distance of 500 metre so as to have minimum adverse effect," record the minutes.

Sources said that curiously the final gazette notification for the five proposals of Nalsarovar, Khijadia, Hingolgarh, Porbander and Gaga were not printed in the Gazette even as they were cleared in the meeting in October last year.

The publication of notification regarding ESZs around Gujarat's sanctuaries may have been stalled at the behest of Gujarat government, which therafter shrunk ESZ boundaries in almost all important sanctuaries, said sources.


The final gazette notification for majority of the sanctuaries from other states that were cleared in October, were published soon. For example, the final notification for Bir Shikargarh Wildlife Sanctuary in Haryana, cleared in the October 2016 meeting, was printed in the gazette on November 23, 2016.


Different yardsticks


Officials pointed out that the ESZ expert committee seemed to have different yardsticks for similar issues. In the proposal for Gir Sanctuary, while excluding the gramtal of Talala from ESZ, the committee accepted the argument: "In case of Talala town; the Gamtal (areas of villages) have been kept outside the ESZ for local development needs."


But in the same meeting. while taking up reconsideration for Khijadia, it declined to exclude one village citing that need for local development of the area was already addressed in the ESZ notification. "Therefore, the committee was of the view that the proposal which was earlier recommended shall remain same for final notification," the committee said, thus rejecting the change proposed by the state government.

Panel allows reduction of safe zone around Gir


Panel allows reduction of safe zone around Gir



AHMEDABAD: The expert committee has approved the shrinking of the Eco Sensitive Zone around the Gir sanctuary. The committee rejected the Gujarat government's proposal to eliminate the ESZ boundary altogether, and increased the boundary to 0.5 km.


While sending the proposal, the government cited the proceedings of a meeting convened in February which was attended by politicians and local leaders. The government said that comments received from various stakeholders and the public were discussed in the meeting. The government said that most of the reservations expressed during consultations pertained to permissions sought from the monitoring committee even for basic requirements of villages — such as the construction of houses, schools, colleges, hospitals, wells, and roads in the ESZ area.


Government officials justified their proposal by saying that a proper mechanism was in place for the development or establishment of hotels, resorts, and farmhouses. In the proposal, the government stated that the riverbed, which is frequented by lions, could be placed under the ESZ up to a distance of 9.4km or up to the point at which lion movement has been observed.


However, sources said that the committee was not informed that the ESZ, which was to extend to 500 metres from the banks of the river, had been reduced to only the riverbed. The sources pointed out that illegal miners seem to have got a free hand in digging near the Gir sanctuary, the Asiatic lions' last abode. Currently, 523 lions are distributed across 22,000 sq km.


The response to an 
RTI query revealed that between April 2016 and February 2017, the geology and mining department had lodged 22 FIRs for illegal mining in the vicinity of the sanctuary. "The estimated value of illegal mining in these 22 cases was pegged at Rs 11.29 crore," said an official.

Near Gir Sanctuary: Youth held for holding ‘illegal’ lion shows


Near Gir Sanctuary: Youth held for holding 'illegal' lion shows

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The accused knew of spots where lion pride could easily be spotted and used to conduct his operations after nightfall.


A youth was arrested from near the Gir Sanctuary for illegally organising "lion shows" for tourists, forest department sources said Saturday.


The accused, Ashish Agrawat, a resident of Talala in Gir-Somnath district, was detained by the Range Forest Officer of Talala on Friday. The forest department has been searching for him, for his alleged involvement in a two-month-old case where a forest trekker was 'stabbed to death' by seven persons who were conducting an illegal lion show, near Dhari in Amreli district. "During the interrogation of the accused caught in the Dhari case, the name of Agrawat came up. We have been searching for him since then," said a forest official who requested not to be named.


During the interrogation of Agrawat, he admitted that he used to conduct lion shows in the revenue area close to Hiran river between Mandor and Bherala villages of the district, the official added. The accused knew of spots where the lion pride could be spotted and used to conduct his operations after nightfall. "We have confirmed this from the villagers who lived nearby," the official said. Agrawat is currently out on bail and will be called in for questioning in the presence of senior forest officials on Monday, the officer added.


These incidents of organising "illegal" lion shows have come to light in areas that lie in close proximity to the Gir sanctuary.

Earlier in March this year, a forest trekker, Dharmendra Vala, was killed on the spot after a forest patrol came under attack from a group of persons who were conducting an illegal lion show, near Bordi village, in Dhari taluka of Amreli district.


Thursday, May 04, 2017

Parliamentary panel pitches for ‘Project Lion’


Parliamentary panel pitches for 'Project Lion'



RAJKOT/AHMEDABAD: The central government must take up the conservation of endangered Asiatic lions on the lines of Project Tiger.

This is an important recommendation that the 31-member Parliamentary committee that visited 
Girforest on January 17 has made in its report. The committee headed by Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury has strongly pitched for a 'statutory support' to strengthen lion conservation efforts.


"The committee is of the view that the Asiatic lion is still endangered on account of its low population. A mechanism is already in place for providing statutory support for protecting tigers and elephants. In view of the decreasing number of the lions, the committee recommends that the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change must take necessary steps for providing statutory support for strengthening lion conservation and, on the lines of Project Tiger and Project Elephant, come up with a 'Project Lion' to protect lions and their habitat," the committee's report stated.


The committee had held discussion with NGOs, civil society organizations, state forest department and the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change on the issues relating to Gir forest.


The panel has also expressed apprehension about shifting of some extra lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh and lauded the state forest department's conservation efforts.


"The committee was informed by the state forest department that the Gir ecosystem can take legitimate pride in saving critically endangered Asiatic lion from the threshold of extinction at the beginning of the twentieth century by affording it a relatively safe habitat. With timely and prompt conservation efforts made by the Gujarat forest department, the Asiatic lion population increased and dispersed to other areas also and formed different distant populations in the landscape. The most important aspect of the Gir Protected Area is that it has become a very stable ecosystem with tremendous regenerating, self-supporting and self-sustaining capability due to its rich and diverse flora and fauna and intensive protection and management by the forest department. Along with lion, this region also supports many other rare and threatened flora and fauna," the report stated.


According to the latest lion census, there are 523 Asiatic lions spread over four districts of Saurashtra which include Junagadh, Amreli, Bhavnagar and Gir-Somnath.

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