Railway retiring room grabs lion land
THE TIMES OF INDAI
AHMEDABAD: The standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife has cleared the proposals for a retiring room and a hotel — as a consequence, around 7,600 square metres of Gir Sanctuary land will be diverted for the projects. The retiring room project was mooted by the Indian Railways at Sasan; and the hotel project by a well-known brand in Sasan Gir.
Forest officials, activists, and even State Board for Wildlife members were against building a retiring room at the Sasan Railway station. "The standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife has restricted the use of the retiring room to officials and staff," said Rohit Vyas, a member of the State Board for Wildlife. "If the retiring room was not to be used for guests or even family members of railway officials, then there was no need for the retiring room, as officers on duty are given rooms at government-approved rates."
Vyas went on to say: "I had written to the national board members, urging them not to approve the 8,000 sq ft retiring room." Sasan does not need one, he said.
"The railways proposes to build it at the station even though only two-metre gauge trains operate in daytime — the need for a night halt for passengers does not arise," he said.
Vyas said that the Sasan station buzzes with wildlife around the clock. There have been sightings of even leopards at the station. The movement of vehicles and construction activity will affect the movement of wildlife, he said. He said he would seek legal opinion for challenging the order in the high court.
A senior officer, refusing to be identified, said that the State Board for Wildlife headed by chief minister Vijay Rupani should have rejected the proposal. He said the state left the decision to the national board, which under the influence of the railway minister cleared the proposal. The national board only imposed the condition that 5% of the cost of the project be spent for habitat improvement and wildlife, he said.
Bhushan Bhatt, a wildlife expert and a member of the State Board for Wildlife, said: "If such a facility is required, it can be developed outside the sanctuary area." He said that the forest department will not react as it would be one government agency taking on another. A senior officer said that since the area is frequented by wild animals, the threat of human-animal conflict will rise if a retiring room were to built within the sanctuary.