Friday, November 28, 2008

Gujarat legislator accused of harming Gir forest


Gujarat legislator accused of harming Gir forest

Times of India


AHMEDABAD: A Gujarat legislator is carrying out illegal mining and stone crushing in the protected Gir forest - home to Asia's only lion species - ravaging the areas around its periphery, a state government employee has alleged.


Kanaksinh Parmar, 40, who works as a translator in the state secretariat in Gandhinagar, has written to Chief Minister Narendra Modi to draw his attention to the environmental degradation in the Kodinar area of Gir.


"I spent my childhood in Kodinar and I grew up there amid its sylvan surroundings. But all this has changed now," said a worried Parmar.


Kodinar is the place where two of the three lion corridors - Gir Kodinar and Gir Mitiyala - pass. Gir is around 400 km from here.


"There are a number of mining and stone crushing activities within a periphery of five kilometres of the Gir forest area in Harmadia, Ebhalvad, Pinchhvi, Arithia and Nagadala villages in the Kodinar taluka of Junagadh district. These illegal activities are due to direct involvement of Kodinar-Khamba MLA Dinubhai Boghabhai Solanki," he said in the Nov 4 letter to Modi.


Asserting that he is ready to substantiate all his charges against the legislator, Parmar says he is fighting a lone battle against Solanki, whom he charges with being a "a law unto himself" and accuses him of "denuding the forest".


"Many police cases, some of them serious, have been registered against him," Parmar says in his complaint.


Parmar said: "I am doing this at risk to my life. It may seem a losing battle, but I will keep fighting. Solanki has let loose a reign of terror in Kodinar."


However, the legislator brushed off the allegations as unfounded and politically motivated.


"We do not do anything illegal. My family does have a quarry and it has a valid permit," Solanki said, claiming that a malicious campaign had been let loose against him.


He alleged that a local NGO was blackmailing him and said the various criminal cases against him were filed by his political opponents during various elections.


Junagadh Collector Ashwini Kumar also denied there was any mining or stone crushing activity in and around the Sasan Gir area which is a protected lion sanctuary.


However, the official clarified that unlike Sasan Gir, the Girnar reserved forest falls within the Junagadh city limits and it was only four months ago that an area of five kilometres around its periphery was declared part of the sanctuary area.


The decision was protested by local residents as quarrying of limestone is their mainstay.


"We have allowed the cutting of stones which is done by heavy cutters on humanitarian grounds. However, there is no blasting at the site," the collector said.


Pradeep Khanna, Gujarat's chief wildlife warden and principal chief conservator of forests, said the area that falls in Junagadh city was notified as a sanctuary area on May 31, 2008, and the forest department gave a no-objection certificate for stone quarrying in the area on certain conditions.


"The final decision is yet to be taken. The very fact that the government had declared the area as an eco-fragile zone means we are concerned about the ecology and want to find a solution to it. However, there is no question of any mining in Sasan Gir," he said.


According to the conservation body IUCN, there are around 175 lions in the Gir forests.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Leopard falls in to Open Wells


Leopard falls in to Open Wells

Divya Bhaskar

Briefly translated from Gujarati


A leopard fell into a well at Inaj village near Verawal. After two hours of hard work by forest dept it was pulled out and taken to Sasan hospital for treatment. Along with, dead body of cat was also brought out. Thus it is assumed that leopard may have fallen chasing the cat.


Kishore Kotecha's Comment :- One more killer well incidence…. Dangerous rescue operation….. And poor chap is injured but saved.

Friday, November 21, 2008

'Bhuvan is ISRO's new eye in the sky


'Bhuvan is ISRO's new eye in the sky

Times of India


AHMEDABAD: Imagine if you could count the lions in Gir or fishermen could locate fish shoals in the sea, just by the click of a mouse. Space Applications Centre of ISRO has just made that possible by an innovation called 'Bhuvan'.


'Bhuvan', meaning 'earth', is the addition to the numerous scientific innovations by SAC and is a satellite mapping tool, just like Google Earth or Wikimapia, but allows you to zoom far closer than the aerial view from a chopper. If Google Earth shows details down to 200 metre resolution on the surface and Wikimapia to 50 metres, Bhuvan will have image resolution down to 10 metre, which means you can easily see details up to a three floor high building and also add information.


Announcing this at the 28th International Congress on Collaborative Mapping and Space Technology of the Indian National Cartographic Association (INCA) at Gandhinagar recently, ISRO chairman Dr G Madhavan Nair said: "Bhuvan will use the data recorded by the Indian satellites only. The prototype of Bhuvan will be ready by the end of November and ISRO is hoping to officially launch the service by March next." 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gene pool of Asiatic Lions to come up in Gujarat


Gene pool of Asiatic Lions to come up in Gujarat

The Hindu


The Asiatic Lion faces threat from poaching and deadly diseases, affecting its population in the lone habitat of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo: P. V. Sivakumar


Ahmedabad (PTI): Turning to science in a long-term conservation plan of endangered Asiatic Lions, an exclusive gene pool of the species will be set up with blood and DNA samples to maintain their genetic diversity.


The measure taken up by the Gujarat government is aimed at protecting the diverse gene pool of the last surviving Asiatic Lions — just 359 as per the last census in 2005 — which faces threat from poaching and deadly diseases, affecting its population in the lone habitat of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary.


The forest department would set up four gene pools at four different places around the sanctuary, Forest Conservator Mayank Sharma told PTI. Blood and DNA samples, semen and live tissue specimens of large number of lions will be preserved at these units.


"We have identified four different places, where we will build full-fledged gene pools as a part of a long term conservation plan," Sharma said.


These units would come up at Rampara and Umath in Rajkot district, Shakkarbaug in Junagadh and Barda in Porbandar. The purpose of the project is to maintain genetic diversity of the lions, he said.


The wildlife department plans to keep six to eight breeding pairs of lions in each of these gene pool, Sharma said, adding that they would be kept in captivity in huge enclosures built at each of the four identified centres.


"Each gene pool will be built at a cost of Rs 1.50 crore," Sharma said.


"We will prepare genetic profiling of each lion present in the gene pool, conduct DNA fingerprinting on them, take their tissue and sperm samples and preserve them in cold storage."


The project also plans to build a laboratory at Sakkarbaug in Junagadh for storing live tissue materials.


"We plan to keep the gene pool for the next 50 years. New techniques would have been developed for conservation of wild animals by then," the forest conservator said.


The building of enclosure has been completed at Rampara near Vankaner town in Rajkot district and lions will be introduced there by 2009-2010. Construction of enclosure is underway at Barda Wildlife Sanctuary in Porbandar district.


"Enclosures will be bigger than those in Zoos. People will not be allowed there," Sharma added.


"We will not pick up lions from Gir and introduce them to gene pools. Lions straying out of the sanctuary and the injured ones after rehabilitation would be shifted to gene pools," he added.

Monday, November 17, 2008

In Gir, too many lions, too little space


In Gir, too many lions, too little space

Hindustan Times By Rathin Das 07642 d&MatchID 1=4836&TeamI D1=6&Tea mID2=2&M at chType1=2&SeriesID1=1219&PrimaryID=4836&Headline=In+Gir%2c+too+many+lions%2c+too+little+space


Earlier this month, two lions were captured in Gondal, 100 km north of India's only refuge for the Asiatic lion.


It's only the latest indication that the lions of Gir National Park are becoming victims of a conservation success.


This decade, lions have preyed on domestic cattle, fallen into village wells, been electrocuted by fences, even seen on Gujarat's beaches.


The last official census in 2005 revealed 359 lions where there were 180 three decades ago in Gir, set up in 1974 as the Indian lion's home.


Only, no one told the lions.


"They don't know where reserve forest limits end and villages begin," noted I. K. Chauhan, deputy conservator of forests. "They go wherever they see thick vegetation."


Gir, spread over a core area of 258.7 square km in Gujarat's Junagadh district, can accommodate upto 300 lions. That's not enough now.


The solution: Expand the core area — no humans allowed here — or move some lions.


Expanding the core will displace tribals, and that's politically impossible. As for finding a new home, the Gujarat government refuses to share its lions.


Madhya Pradesh has been trying to lay its hand on a few of Gir's surplus lions for more than a decade, hoping to move them to a forest near Gwalior, to its Kunopalpur forest reserve.


Gujarat didn't actually refuse to move lions: It simply did not.


The MP government has since approached the Supreme Court, but Gujarat refuses.


"Why should we give up our lions?" a senior politician argued, requesting anonymity.


Wildlife experts cite another reason. "Lions and tigers can't stay in the same forest," said S.K. Nanda, state environment and forest secretary. "There are tigers at Kunopalpur. We won't sacrifice our lions."

Another poacher gang active in Gir?


Another poacher gang active in Gir?

Times of India


Foresters Comb Sanctuary After Lioness Was Found Injured


Junagadh: Barely a month after 19 poachers— who killed six lions in March 2007 in Babaria forest range of Gir, were awarded three years' rigorous imprisonment— forest department has raised alarm suspecting another gang having become active. Reports suggest forest department has started intense combing of the area.


The department also suspects that the gang belongs to Madhya Pradesh, which was the native of the dreaded poacher, Sarkaslal. Three jeeps of forest officials and police conducted searches in Kankai-Sasan and Lalpur areas of Gir (West ) on Saturday. Sources also confirmed a thorough check of all nomadic tribes, who have settled here.


Top officials have termed the checks as routine procedure. However. sources said, this type of intense operation is taking place for the first time after Sarkaslal's gang was caught in 2007.


A top source in the forest department said, "A lion has been missing since last few days, while another lioness was spotted injured with two of her cubs. Marks of injury on her head and throat do not suggest infighting, but something more." B h a r at Pathak, chief conservator of forest said, "Though we have not been given any specific information, we have been asked to conduct intense patrolling. Following which, we have conducted combing at Una and nearby areas."

On the prowl for insights into lions' genetic evolution


On the prowl for insights into lions' genetic evolution



An international team of researchers has successfully traced the evolutionary history of the world's lions in unprecedented detail. The researchers' findings published online in the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS), indicate that there are 11 genetic subsets in today's lions that not only distinguish African from Asian populations but also separate genetic strands within the African population.


The subsets, most of which are determined by geographical clusters, include individual ones in Namibia, Kruger National Park (South Africa), Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania), Kenya, Uganda and the Gir Forest in India as the only Asia subset. In addition, there are two distinct clusters in Botswana and three in Serengeti National Park (Tanzania).


The findings contradict the theory that African lions consist of a single, randomly breeding or so-called 'panmictic' population. The authors of the study, including researchers from Portugal, the UK, Africa and the US, conclude that greater efforts should go into preserving individual populations as opposed to large-scale conservation schemes.


'Understanding the broader aspects of the evolutionary history of the lion has been hindered by a lack of comprehensive sampling and appropriately informative genetic markers,' the authors explain. In an effort to address that shortcoming, they examined the genetic makeup of 357 lions from Africa and Asia.


The scientists also analysed patterns and variations of viruses found in the big cats. 'The unique social ecology of lions and the fact that lions have experienced well-documented infectious disease outbreaks [...] provide a good opportunity to study lion evolutionary history using both host and virus genetic information,' the study reports. 'Indeed, population genetics of transmitted pathogens can accurately reflect the demographic history of their hosts.'


In this regard, the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), a retrovirus analogous to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), was particularly useful because, the authors explain, 'the virus is quite genetically diverse in lions, offering a unique marker for assessing ongoing lion demographic processes.'


According to the analysis, today's population of 50,000 free-ranging lions in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia derive from several habitats in Eastern and Southern Africa in the Pleistocene epoch (about 324,000 to 169,000 years ago). These genetically distinct populations spread into Central and Northern Africa and into Asia during the Late Pleistocene (about 100,000 years ago). Between 14,000 and 7,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene/Holocene transition, the big cats from habitats in the south spread again towards the north and east, so that there was interbreeding between populations.


Yet, the study concludes, 'in spite of the ability of lions to disperse long distances, patterns of genetic diversity suggest substantial population subdivision [...], and reduced gene flow, which, along with large differences in [...] six distinct FIV-Ple subtypes among lion populations, refute the hypothesis that African lions consist of a single panmictic population.'


For further information, please visit:

African, Asian Lion Populations Genetically Diverse, Research Suggests


African, Asian Lion Populations Genetically Diverse, Research Suggests

GenomeWeb News - NY,USA By a GenomeWeb staff reporter


NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Lion populations contain unexpected genetic diversity, according to a new study.


An international team of researchers used a combination of mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosome, biparental nuclear DNA, and feline immunodeficiency virus sequence data to characterize lion population genetics and evolutionary history. Their work, appearing online today in PLoS Genetics, suggests that existing lion populations fall into at least eleven genetic groups, challenging the notion that African lions fall into one large genetic group. That, in turn, provides insights into potential lion conservation strategies.


"We refute the hypothesis that African lions consist of a single panmictic population," senior author Warren Johnson, a staff scientist with the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Genetic Diversity, and his colleagues wrote, "highlighting the importance of preserving populations in decline rather than prioritizing larger-scale conservation efforts."


In the past, lion fossils dating back millions of years have been unearthed in eastern and southern Africa. The animals appear to have spread from Africa to other parts of the continent and into Eurasia and the Americas. These days, though, remaining free-ranging lion populations are found in just a few primary regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa and India's Gir Forest, where researchers estimate that there are fewer than 50,000 lions remaining.


The team compiled genetic data from 357 lions from Africa and Asia, focusing on sequences from mitochondrial genes, the SRY-3' UTR on the Y-chromosome, two biparental nuclear genes, and 22 microsatellite markers.


They also compared sequences from FIV samples, since the viruses vary genetically from one lion population to the next. FIV genetics, meanwhile, added another layer to the picture. The virus is endemic to eight of the 11 lion populations, absent only in populations in India, Namibia, and the Botswana/Kalahari region.


Overall, the team found eleven genetically distinct groups of lions: one each in Namibia, South Africa's Kruger National Park, Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater, Kenya, Uganda, and Gir, India, two groups in Botswana, and three in the Serengeti National Park.


In Botswana, the researchers found one distinct genetic cluster of lions in northern Botswana and another in southern Botswana and the Kalahari in South Africa. In the Serengeti region, on the other hand, three genetic clusters were found in an overlapping region.


Along with their assessment of existing lion populations, the researchers were also able to make inferences about past migration events. Their analysis of lion and FIV genetic data indicates that East African lions are genetically older than other lions, supporting the notion that lions were present in East Africa before spreading to other regions sampled.


The genetic patterns in each region also revealed information about some past lion migration events. For instance, the team concluded that lion populations living today originated in East and Southern Africa during the Pleistocene period, between 169,000 and 324,000 years ago.


From there, the researchers inferred that there were two major migration events. The first migration, from southern and eastern Africa to Central and North Africa and Asia, appears to have occurred during the Late Pleistocene about 100,000 years ago. More recently, during the Pleistocene/Holocene transition (some 7,000 to 14,000 years ago), lions appear to have migrated from Southern Africa towards East Africa, inter-breeding with other lion populations on the way.


"[W]e found substantial population subdivision, reduced gene flow, and large differences in FIVPle sequence and sero-prevalence among lion populations, as well as evidence of historic secondary contact between populations," the authors wrote.


Beyond providing information about past lion populations, the team noted, the findings could have implications for those designing lion conservation schemes. Because there appears to be a substantial amount of genetic diversity between different lion populations, genetic clusters could be lost should individual lion populations disappear.


"[E]mploying a bottom-up perspective that prioritizes populations, rather than large-scale units (e.g. all African lions), might preserve and maintain lion diversity and evolutionary processes most efficiently," the authors wrote.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Science in the wild


Science in the wild

India Today By Mihir Srivastava


Between February and March 2007, 10 lions were killed by poachers in three different incidents at the Gir National Park (GNP) which houses 360 Asiatic lions, the only surviving population in the wild.


Eighteen months later, 30 tribals belonging to the Baheliya tribe were found guilty by a local court in Junagadh and sentenced to three years imprisonment. This is unprecedented in the history of wildlife crime in India on two counts: use of forensics to crack the case and speedy conviction of the accused.


In late March 2007, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi took personal interest in the case and the investigation was handed over from the Forest Department to the CID-crime under Inspector General of Police (IGP) Keshav Kumar.


"We inherited a blind case with no seizure, no eyewitnesses," says Kumar. Forensics was the only ray of hope. The Modi Government gave him a seven-member team along with a mobile forensic lab.


The reconstruction of the site of crime, linking the evidence gathered to the perpetrators of the crime was crucial for solving the case.


Each and every piece of evidence was meticulously collected and sealed. Evidence collected from the scene indicated that the poachers were in the forest along with their families.

At this stage of investigations crucial help came from a Delhi-based NGO, Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), which specialises in anti-poaching operations. It provided police with the crucial input about the modus operandi of the Baheliyas, a traditional nomadic poaching tribe.


They dress shabbily as herbal medicinal vendors while travelling to various wildlife centres, never revealing their true identity. Baheliyas go by strange names like Cycle Bhai, Motor Singh and Diesel Singh.


A search operation was ordered and police apprehended a gang of 45 Baheliya women and children, barring two males, in Gujarat. Director of central India operations of WPSI, Nitin Desai says, "My informers helped establish the real identity of the accused. They helped police nab four absconders."


Even after the arrests, linking them to the crime was difficult. Those arrested feigned ignorance and no recovery of lion parts was made. Here forensic support came handy. The team had recovered lion carcasses, with bones and claws missing, from pits near the Baheliya camping sites.


The accused were subjected to forensic tests, which established that their nails, spears and animal traps carried traces of flesh, blood and hair of the poached lions. The analysis determined the species of the sample as well as the unique DNA fingerprint of one particular animal, whose flesh was found on the equipment. The link was clearly established.


First of its kind

·                         Forensic science was used to crack the case.

·                         Narco-analysis was done on a woman and that too in a wildlife case.

·                         DNA fingerprinting used to link crime, site of crime with the perpetrators of the crime.

·                         Life insurance policies were recovered from the poachers, hinting at the involvement of    bigger players. 


To confirm the line of investigation, in a yet another unprecedented move, a narco-analysis test was conducted on one of the accused, a woman. It confirmed the initial findings. Based on the irrefutable evidence, the CID was able to submit a charge-sheet within three months.


The investigation would have gone in vain had the accused secured bail.


"Baheliyas are known to jump bail and they cannot be traced as they are nomads," says Sudhir Mishra, a Supreme Court lawyer, who was appointed legal consultant for the case by the Gujarat Government.


The accused had bona fide proof of address— ration cards and voter I-cards—but the probe proved they were fake.


Faced with no ground for defence, the accused withdrew their bail application.


The investigations revealed the extent of patronage the tribals get for poaching animals to keep the global trade in wildlife parts going. The supposedly poor tribals had huge life insurance covers.


The police found 18 LIC policies in the name of three of the gang, with Rs 4,50,000 paid as premium for these policies. They were bought from one agent in Madhya Pradesh.


The police is now probing the source of money for these policies. "In this case, wildlife crime was treated at par with any other crime. That made the difference," says Belinda Wright, executive director, WPSI. Poachers on the endangered list?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lions block Girnar Parikrama path for 2 hours


Lions block Girnar Parikrama path for 2 hours

Times of India gin=default& Enter =true&S kin=TOI& GZ=T&AW=1226305597921


Junagadh: Unusual participants — three lions and three lionesses — joined the party of several thousand Parikrama walkers at Mount Girnar on Sunday at 8.30 pm. The royal brigade, who sat nonchalantly on the path, 10 km of Junagadh, in Jambudi — a dense forest range, made many a pilgrim skip their heartbeats.

 The sighting of a big cat in the pathway of pilgrims, was in fact the second incident of its kind in the past 24 hours. On Friday evening, at 9 pm, a lioness had blocked the way near Jeena Bava Ni Madhi for over an hour.


Walkers breathed a sigh of relief only after two hours of operation by the forest department officials, who rushed to the spot and drove away the lion. Led by two assistant conservators of forests, PS Babariya and VT Chorsariya, the team chased the lions back into the deep jungles by flashing high-intensity lights at them.

 The area was first cleared off and pilgrims were asked to empty the place. At first, foresters created a blockade by parking large vehicles and then beamed the search lights, till the lions went about 5 km into the forest.

 Interestingly though, it was not the lions who had overstepped human lines this time. This is a forest area and the lions live in the area. ACF Babariya said, "Lions have a habit of walking on these pathways made in the forest and it was not that they had lost way when they crossed paths with pilgrims." A constant vigil for five days till the Parikrama gets over will have to be kept, he added.


Official figures suggest 4 lakh pilgrims have already started their Parikrama on Sunday and heavy inflow of people is likely to continue for another four days.

Lioness on Parikrama track


Lioness on Parikrama track

Divya Bhaskar

Briefly translated from Gujarati


Religious Parikrama (relious natural track) is organized at Girnar Wildlife sanctuary every year. About 10 lac people participate in it. The trail North Dungar range and has first night hault at Jinabawa Ni Madhi (temple). This year, unexpectedly a lioness was found sitting on the track. About 7000 people did lion-show although scarred. But the royal-queen, not getting disturbed by so much crowd, made her way into the forest after about 30 minutes.


Kishore Kotecha's Comment :- Girnar is just declared as Sanctuary and this is first religious event after that is it that, now because of proper protection, lions have increased or that lions have more freedom.  

Two more lions fall into a parapet-less well in Gir


Two more lions fall into a parapet-less well in Gir

Indian express By Sibte Husain Bukhari


Junagadh, November 7 Two subadult lions, aged about three years, died after falling into a parapet-less well on the outskirts of Mitiyala village near Mitiyala sanctuary under the Gir East forest division. Their carcasses were fished out on Friday.


Premji Delwadiya, owner of the agriculture land, spotted the carcasses floating in his well in the morning and informed the forest officials. Foresters rushed to the spot and pulled out the carcasses and sent them to the Jashadhar Animal Care Centre for postmortem.


Maneshwar Raja, Deputy Conservator of Forest (Gir East), said, "The lions died due to drowning. The postmortem report confirmed this." According to Raja, the well was 40 feet deep with a water level of 15 feet. He said the big cats might have fallen in the well at least 24 hours before the incident came to light. He ruled out any possibility of foul play as all the claws and bones were found intact.


"Even as the state government is providing a subsidy of Rs 4,000 to cover the wells surrounding the Gir forest, farmers do not seem to be interested in this, creating a trouble for the wildlife," Raja said.


The Gir East forest division has been given a target of 4,000 wells to be covered with lid during the current financial year. "Till date, we have covered around 1,500 wells," he said.

3 lions drag away calf at Lor village


3 lions drag away calf at Lor village

Times of India


Amreli: Three lions entered Lor village in Jaffrabad taluka on Monday and dragged away a calf tied to the tether. A woman sleeping on a cot in the court-yard, however, had a miraculous escape. Villagers said she was saved as she had covered herself with a blanket.


At 11 pm on Monday, the lions dragged away the calf from Manu Dudhwala's house. Asmita (25), a guest at Dudhwala's house, woke up scared as she heard the cries of the calf. She raised an alarm, but by then the calf had been taken away. Villagers said this is the second visit of lions in a week. On new year's night, the same trio had been spoted at another villager Mana Chavda's house, but returned without a prey.

Pride of Gir finally in cage after ten-day chase by Forest Department


Pride of Gir finally in cage after ten-day chase by Forest Department

Indian express By Parish Joshi


Rajkot, November 2 : The lions had strayed into human habitat in Gondal; will be rehabilitated in Sakkarbaug Zoo The pride of lions that had strayed into human habitat in Gondal area of Rajkot from Gir, was finally captured by the Forest Department early on Sunday after a ten-day chase.


Ten days ago, a full-grown lioness and her three cubs (not full-grown) had come out of Dhari, the north side sanctuary area of Gir forest and reached Rajkot district, more than 150 kilometres from the sanctuary. Forest teams of Rajkot, Sasan and Dhari consisting of more than 60 personnel including veterinary doctors and senior officers had been after the lions ever since.

Junagadh turns into a tourist hotspot during festive season


Junagadh turns into a tourist hotspot during festive season

Indian express By Sibte Husain Bukhari


Junagadh, November 1 : Junagadh has become a hotspot for tourists during the holiday season. In the last five days, thousands of tourists from across the state have visited famous tourist sites here, particularly the Somnath Temple, Gir Forests, Girnar Mountains, holiday camp sites at Chorwad and Madhavpur beaches and the Sakkarbaug Zoo among other places. During this festive season, the Railways and the state transport earned remarkable income and transported lakhs of passengers.


Y P Jani, Deputy Station Superintendent, Junagadh Railway station, said: "Since the last five days, the Railways' income, on an average, has been rupees three lakh per day. Some 30,000 passengers have travelled by train in the last five days."


The state transport division also reported a similar increase in passenger numbers. A state transport official from the Junagadh bus station said the state transport (ST) recorded a daily passenger base of one lakh. "The ST earned an income of Rs 6 lakh per day at Junagadh during the last five days," the official said.


V J Rana, Director, Sakkarbaug Zoo, Junagadh, said: "Over 50,000 tourists visited the zoo from October 28 to November 1. The zoo registered an income of Rs five lakh during this period."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sealed private hotels rule the roost in Sasan Gir during tourist season


Sealed private hotels rule the roost in Sasan Gir during tourist season

Indian Express By Parish Joshi


Rajkot, October 31 : A total of Nine hotels in the vicinity of Sasan Gir village, which had been sealed by the Talala Mamlatdar some time ago for not obtaining no-objection certificates (NOC) from the Forest Department, have started functioning again, albeit illegally.


Every year, visitors from far and wide flock to this small village in Junagadh district. The infrastructure to manage tourism here is inadequate with just one functioning Government lodge, Sinh Sadan. In the last few years, however, over 30 private hotels have mushroomed to cash in on the heavy tourist inflow.


"Most of the private hotels that exist in Gir have neither obtained NOCs from the Forest Department nor have they followed any licensing formality. Till date, the authorities had paid a blind eye to this issue. But recently, following orders from the Junagadh District Collector, the Talala Mamlatdar had sealed around nine hotels in the vicinity of Sasan Gir forest.


"All of these sealed hotels had already applied for NOCs long ago, but nothing happened due to the lethargic attitude of the Forest Department. Now, with the tourist season having begun, over 20,000 visitors visit the sanctuary daily and many want to stay back. That's why most of the sealed hotels have started functioning again," said Bharat Chuhan, the owner of a small hotel in Sasan Gir.


 When contacted, the Talala Mamlatdar, Amiben Doshi said: "The hotels had been sealed as per power given to me by the Collector, when we came to know that they had not obtained Forest Department NOCs. The local police have to check whether the hotels remain sealed or continue operation. Government holidays are on so we have not been able to follow up on this issue."


The Forest Department, meanwhile, has not taken any interest in the issue. "We are busy managing the heavy traffic of Diwali in the sanctuary and in our interpretation zone, but once this rush recedes, we will look into the matter. As of now, I have not received any file of hotels asking for NOC from us," said L A Chuhan, the Deputy Conservator of Forest, Sasan Gir.

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