CAG upbraids Gujarat over lion conservation
The Times Of India
GANDHINAGAR: The CAG in its report came down heavily on the state government for lackadaisical lion conservation efforts. The CAG noted that despite increase in the number of lions, there was no increase in protected area, and that there was poor implementation of modern technology in conservation. The CAG also pointed out that the genome mapping project for lion conservation was being handled by an agency which did not possess required expertise and progress was slow.
The Genome Mapping and Conservation of Asiatic Lion project was recommended by the task force that was set up to probe the poaching of eight lions in 2007. The task force had suggested setting up of a laboratory with facilities for cryo-preservation and DNA sequencing among others.
While the Gujarat Wildlife Genomics and DNA Banking Facility was created in 2009, the project began only in May 2014. Within a year, the MoU with Gujarat State Bio Technology Mission (GSBTM) was cancelled, and the responsibility to run the project was given to Gujarat Forestry Research Foundation (GFRF), and the project was renamed as "Wildlife Genomics Research Project."
The CAG observed that though an incubator for the purpose was purchased in November 2013, till date work on diagnostic core has not been started. Further, specifications for the laboratory have yet not been prepared.
The CAG sated that the even though the GFRF did not have expertise in the field of scientific research on genomics, the project was transferred to the GFRF which did not have a permanent technical staff for the project.
NO NEW PROTECTED AREA:
The CAG report stated that the population of Asiatic Lions has increased from 205 in 1979 to 523 in 2015, and only 356 of them were within the Gir Protected Area. The CAG observed, "Lions being territorial animals, their increasing population have led them to discover and adopt new habitats outside the Gir PAs. It is evident that the number of lions outside the Gir PA was 108 in 2011, which increased to 167 (54.6 per cent) in 2015."
The CAG stated that the proposal submitted in March 2016 for draft Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) notification for Gir PA also reported that the latest census should be taken as a sign of warning as nearly 32 per cent of the lions have their habitat outside the Gir PA. The CAG noted that no new sanctuary has been declared as a solution.
The audit observed that in 2005 an area of 30,152 hectare in Palitana Mahuva, Talaja, Khambha and Savarkundla was proposed as Sir Dharam Kumar Sinhji Wildllife Sanctuary, later in 2006 it was decided to declare it as a conservation reserve and the area was reduced to 11,155 hectare. This area was further reduced to 10,953 hectare. Also in 2010, it was decided to transfer 4,811 hectare of government waste land, but despite several communication the same has not yet been transferred.
Wasteful purchase of forensic mobile unit
A forensic mobile unit for forensic science investigation was purchased at a cost of Rs 0.25 crore. Between January 2010 and August 2014, the unit was used on 37 occasions only and that too for non-forensic use. The fact remained that the unit was purchased without proper assessment of its utility.
Construction of chain link fencing along railway tracks:
Three railway tracks pass through the areas inhabited by the lions in Amreli district. Between 2012-14, there were five cases of lion casualty on the tracks. To control accidental deaths of lions construction of underpasses and fencing of entire railway track on both sides was undertaken. The work, in one section was completed in March 2016 and works of other sections were at various stages of completion. CAG noted that that lions entered fenced area on eight occasions raising doubts that fencing of the railway tracks, though a major step for conservation of wildlife, had not succeeded in its objective.