Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jairam urges Gujarat Govt to provide lions for Kuno-Palpur

Jairam urges Gujarat Govt to provide lions for Kuno-Palpur
The pionerr By Vivek Trivedi

Giving a boost to the proposed second home for Asiatic Lions, being developed at Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in Sheopur district Madhya Pradesh, Union Minister of State for Forest and Environment, Jairam Ramesh on Thursday once again pressed Gujarat to part with some of its lions with Madhya Pradesh.

Ramesh on Thursday visited the Sasangir sanctuary in Gujarat's Junagadh district, the only abode of Asiatic lions. The Union Minister said that he was hopeful that the Narendra Modi Government would accept the proposal for shifting few lions to Madhya Pradesh.

The Union Minister of Forests and Environment said that specialists believe that there should be a second habitat for Asiatic lions and from past so many years we are in talks with Madhya Pradesh.

However, the original plan of relocating Asiatic lions of Gir to any other place in the country was devised in 1980 by Wildlife Research Institute Dehradun. The idea was based on the assumption that the 1,400-sq km Gir forest, with its population of over 350 big cats, was too small for keeping such a large number of the carnivore species. The other reasons for devising a second home for this species were based on fear of the entire lion population being wiped out by a disease or natural calamity as had earlier happened in some parts of Africa.

The Kuno-Palpur sanctuary of Madhya Pradesh was selected following extensive surveys and Asiatic Lions Reproduction Project was started with Central assistance of Rs 64 crore, spread over a period of 20 years, to shift the lions. The project, however, has failed to move due to Gujarat's reluctance to hand over the lions by presenting a variety of reasons.

The States of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are bickering over various aspects of the relocation, over the last two-and-a-half years, since the volunteer organisation, Biodiversity Conservation Trust of India, New Delhi, moved the Apex Court seeking relocation of lions from Gir to Kuno Palpur. Both the States are still awaiting the final verdict in the matter.

Under this Central Government's ambitious project, Rs 34 crore has already been spent on relocation of 1,543 families for establishing this sanctuary.

However, Gujarat is adamant on not handing any of the unique pure breed Asiatic lions to any location outside the state.

It is learnt that apprehension of losing the tourists to Madhya Pradesh was said to be the basic reason behind the stubborn attitude of Gujarat.

Ramesh again favours M.P. as ‘second home' for Asiatic Lions

Ramesh again favours M.P. as 'second home' for Asiatic Lions
The Hindu By Manas Dasgupta

Says in the case of an epidemic, it is risky to keep the felines in one place

Despite the repeated refusals by the Gujarat government, the Union Environment and Forests Minister, Jairam Ramesh, on Thursday again re-opened the controversy over launching a "second home" for the Asiatic Lions.

Mr. Ramesh, who visited the Gir forest, the only abode of the Asiatic Lions in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, later talking to media persons said he was in favour of a "second home" for the threatened species in Madhya Pradesh.

He said he was aware that the Asiatic Lions were a proud possession of Gujarat and the State was not willing to share it with any other State, but it was "too risky" to keep them all at one place. According to Mr. Ramesh, Asiatic Lions were already a threatened species and in case of any outbreak of an epidemic, the entire population could be wiped out.

Mr. Ramesh said he had written several letters to the State government in this regard and hoped that it would realise the danger of keeping the entire pride together and accept the proposal to send a few to Madhya Pradesh to start a second home for the Asiatic Lions.

The Union Minister was thrilled to see a pride of 14 lions and cubs together early in the morning on Thursday and discussed with the forest officials and local villagers about problems in the Gir forest, the threat due to poaching and other issues.

A proposal to spare at least five lions to launch a second home in Madhya Pradesh was made to Gujarat several years back and the issue was also taken to the level of the Supreme Court but the State government had consistently refused to accept the suggestion stating that it was taking all necessary steps to protect the species in its only abode, including checking the threat of poaching.

The government had also pointed out that from a mere 180 animals, the number of Asiatic Lions had increased in the last three decades to 411 as per the latest census which was a proof of the State government's positive steps to protect the lions.

Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh listens to grievances of Maldhari people, the shepherd community, near the Gir lion sanctuary in Vadodara on Thursday. — PHOTO: PTI

Jairam wants a few Gir lions for MP

Jairam wants a few Gir lions for MP
Indian Express

Union Minister for Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh on Thursday called for the transfer of lions from Gir to Palpur Kuno Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. He said this is necessary to prevent the possible inbreeding among the surviving Asiatic lions at Gir.

"We will be happy to see a second home for Asiatic lions in MP. I have written to the state government. They should consider this," said Jairam. He said his arguments are based on inputs provided by scientists, who have raised the threat of inbreeding among the species. He said Gujarat's sentiments for lions are understandable, but the threat should not be ignored.

"They (the state government) think that lion is a state animal. They might not be the wrong. But there is a threat. Here in Gir, the lions have an inbred population and their genetic diversity is also limited. Many scientists are of the view that the lions should have a second home. Thousands of lions have died in Tanzania and Africa and inbreeding can become a possibility here too. I have written to the Gujarat government to transfer some lions to MP. But the government here thinks lions are their pride possession," he said.

The minister expressed the hope that someday the state government will accept the proposal to translocate some lions to MP.

For over a decade, effort has been made to establish a second independent population of Asiatic lions in Palpur Kuno Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. The sanctuary was selected as the reintroduction site as it is located in the former range of lions before they were hunted into extinction in 1873.

But the Gujarat government has been resisting the relocation as Gir will lose its status as the world's only abode of Asiatic lions. The big cats are part of a pet project of Chief Minister Narendra Modi and he has gone on record against their transfer within or outside India. The government has raised a number of objections to the proposal, and the matter is now in Supreme Court.

Ramesh has even offered Modi tigers in exchange for lions. But Modi's response was, "We want Gujarat to have tigers, but we will not give our lions."

As per the last Census, the sanctuary is home to around 400 lions.

On the proposed rope way in Gir, Ramesh said the decision will be taken in a month's time. Since its inception in 1995, the project has hit a road block. Activists have protested against it on the premise that the trees on the hills are home to 69 vultures — a highly endangered species which is on the verge of extinction.

Ramesh said it's a difficult call as the area was declared a sanctuary in 2008. He added that he had round of talks with the concerned parties, and the ministry will submit a report within a month.

Jairam roar in Modi's den

Jairam roar in Modi's den
The Times of India

Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh today pressed Gujarat to part with some of its lions, saying they should be translocated and have a second home in Madhya Pradesh.

The Minister, who visited Sasan Gir Sanctuary in Junagadh district, the only abode of Asiatic lions, said he is hopeful that the Narendra Modi government will agree to the proposal of having a second home for Gujarat lions in MP.

Gujarat Government has rejected Jairam Ramesh's proposal on Gir Lions. Gujarat Government has said there is no need to shift Gir Lions out of Gujarat and that the Asiatic Lions are safe in Gir.

The Gujarat government ealier also rejected the proposal made several times before on the ground the Gir lions were the "pride" of the state.

The issue of sharing Gir lions with MP is a bone of contention between the Governments of Gujarat, MP and the Centre.

"You know more than 1,000 lions died due to diseases in Tanzania. Here in Gir, the lions have an inbreed population and genetic diversity of the lions here is also limited," Ramesh told reporters after a visit to the sanctuary.

"Many scientists are of the view that the lions should have a second home. I have written to the Gujarat Government to transfer some lions to MP. "But the Government here thinks lions are their pride possession," Ramesh said, adding he hopes that someday the proposal to translocate the lions will be accepted by the State Government.

The Gujarat Government has time and again made it clear it will not share the big cats with MP. As per the last Census, the sanctuary is home to around 400 lions.

Ramesh has even offered Modi tigers in exchange for lions. But Modi's response was, "We want Gujarat to have tigers, but we will not give our lions."

Ramesh also went on a safari and was lucky to sight eight lions. He inspected various facilities in the sanctuary for the wildlife.

Asiatic lion in Gir under threat from disease, says Jairam

Asiatic lion in Gir under threat from disease, says Jairam
India Today By Kapil Dave

Asiatic lions are not safe in the Gir forest and sanctuary in Gujarat and need to be shifted from there, Union environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh said on Thursday.

Union environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh

"Scientists from all over the world have written to me expressing apprehension over the spread of a disease, akin to what killed thousands of the big cats in Tanzania. It needs to be relocated partially," the minister said.

"The animals can be shifted to Madhya Pradesh. I have written to the state government in this regard and it should consider the transfer," he said.

The Gujarat government, however, is not willing to shift the lions and it has made clear to the Union minister that it is taking all necessary steps to protect the animals, sources close to the development said.

The Union minister was also told about the lion gene pool programme, the sources said.

Fearing inbreeding, Jairam wants Asiatic lion relocated

Fearing inbreeding, Jairam wants Asiatic lion relocated
Indian Express

Saying there was threat of inbreeding among the Asiatic lions at Gir, Union Environment Minister and Forest Jairam Ramesh, who is on a two-day visit to the sanctuary, Thursday called for relocating them to Palpurkuno Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. Gir is the Asiatic lion's only home.

"We would be happy to see a second home for Asiatic lions in MP. I have written to the state government about this. It should consider this," Jairam said.

The minister maintained that though Gujarat's "sentiments for the lions are understandable, the threat should not be ignored".

"They (the Gujarat government) think the lion is a state animal. They might not be wrong.... But then there is a threat. Scientists have written to me (about the threat of inbreeding). Thousands of lions have died in Tanzania and Africa (due to inbreeding). And it could be possible here also," he said.

Jairam's proposal to relocate the lions is nothing new. Efforts to establish an independent second population of the animal at Palpurkuno Sanctuary — it was selected as the reintroduction site because it was located in the range the Asiatic lion inhabited before they were hunted into extinction around 1873 — have been going on for nearly a decade.

But Gujarat has been resisting these efforts, primarily because it would deprive Gir of the status as the world's only home of Asiatic lion. The state has also raised several other objections. The issue is now before the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Jairam said the decision on the proposed ropeway meant to take pilgrims to Jain temples atop Mount Girnar inside Gir will be take in a month's time.

The project, first proposed in1995, has been facing protests from wildlife activists, who say it will badly affect the about 69 vultures of a highly endangered species on the verge of extinction that live on the hill.

Friday, January 28, 2011

More funds to ensure better tourism facilities

More funds to ensure better tourism facilities
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

The state tourism department is all set to give an infrastructure boost to all places in Gujarat that attract visitors.

It has proposed to reserve 10 per cent fund for roads, building and urban department departments to boost the infrastructure at tourist spots in the state.

During a meeting, chaired by chief secretary A K Joti, it was decided that the tourism department will get a viability gap funding from Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services. Once a study is completed on the issue it may be forwarded to the urban and road and building departments to take up the works.

In addition, the two departments will carry out works based on the requisition of the tourism department in the shortest possible time.

After every 100 km of roads, the tourism department will ensure that parking facilities and places offering refreshments are available. It was also decided that the industries and mines department will ask major chains of restaurants to open outlets where ever

The tourism department will also train about 1,000 guides under the Kaushalya Vardhan scheme of the state government. The guides would be paid stipend for one year before they get popular among the tourists. The government officials said the decision to train the guides was taken after it was found that there was a shortage of trained guides in the state, especially in the G i r forest area where beat guards had to often double up as guides.

The tourism department is now taking its job seriously, a senior government official said, adding that after witnessing the increased inflow of tourists, it had become necessary to have amenities and infrastructure in place.

Every 100 km will have parking facilities and places offering refreshments Major restaurant chains to be requested to open outlets The tourism department to train about 1,000 guides

Tourism corp properties up for sale?

Tourism corp properties up for sale?
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

TCGL Under Fire Over Lack Of Infrastructure; Set To Be Privatised

Properties of the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited (TCGL) are likely to be put on sale at existing market rates as part of the privatisation of the public sector enterprise, the tourism department has decided at a meeting here.

A committee under the chairmanship of additional chief secretary (finance) has been formed to oversee the privatisation. A recent government resolution stated that open land and other properties belonging to TCGL may be sold after the price is decided by the committee. The committee will have additional chief secretary (finance), principal secretary (industry), secretary (tourism) and the managing director of TCGL as its members.

The move comes after TCGL came under criticism for lack of tourist infrastructure in the state. TCGL recorded an increase in tourist inflow of about 20 per cent after advertisements featuring brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan were aired on various television and radio channels. However, there were widespread complaints of inadequate infrastructure.

Officials said that land in possession of TCGL will be used for tourism purposes. If the land is not used, it has to be returned to the revenue department.

Officials also said that while fixing the upset price, the committee can gather inputs from district and state-level price committees. These committees will also be formed by the state government.

Earlier, during a high-level meeting chaired by chief secretary A K Joti, tourism secretary Vipul Mittra said for innovative tourism mega-projects, land will have to be given to developers at a concessional price. However, Mittra was advised to table a policy before the committee to take a final call.

Also, the meeting gave a final 'go ahead' to the privatisation policy of TCGL, which will, however, be monitored by the committee. D u r i n g the meeting, the issue of filling vac a n t posts of GAS officials was taken up. The meeting advised TCGL to go to open market for contractual appointment. However, before going in for any appointment, prior consent of the additional chief secretary (finance) and the general administration department is essential.

Also, the meeting, decided to create a new post for the strengthening of the Gujarat Yatradham Vikas Board. TCGL has been permitted to participate in prominent international meetings and exhibitions. However, this would be limited to three to four such events.


-A high-level panel has okayed privatisation of the tourism entity
-The committee will monitor privatisation process of TCGL
-TCGL gets approval to take part in prominent international meetings and exhibitions
-Unused land in possession of TCGL has to be returned to the revenue department

There were complaints of inadequate tourism facilities after an increase in tourists' inflow following advertisements featuring Amitabh Bachchan

Girnar ropeway project under scanner

Girnar ropeway project under scanner
Times of India

The union minister for forest and environment Jairam Ramesh has said that all aspects related to the Girnar ropeway project in Junagadh district will be taken into consideration before giving it the final nod. The minister is currently on a two day visit to review the project.

In a meeting with senior state government officials, the minister sought various details about the project, including whether the agency working on the ropeway project would be amenable to make changes if required.

The minister's concerns over the project further included the safety of the people, and the presence of 25 Asiatic lions in the area which might endanger people's lives. The vultures inhabiting that region might also get affected by the project.

Ramesh had even opined that if required, the height of the project can be increased or the alternative site of the project be considered. The minister has even asked the principal secretary SK Nanda and principal chief conservator of forest Pradeep Khanna to come to Delhi for a final discussion on the project.

In the meeting, a report which was against the proposed ropeway was discussed, and a memorandum was also given to the minister by the Maldhari community, which mentioned that the community was disintegrated, dislocated and harassed because of policies of the government and especially anti-people measures by the Forest Department.

The memorandum describes in detail the hardships faced by the community following their resettlement away from the sanctuary area, and demands that all the Maldharis there should be considered permanent' and should be allowed to graze their cattle inside the forest.

MP, Guj govts must fight it out: Jairam

MP, Guj govts must fight it out: Jairam
Times of India

Union Minister Had Earlier Said Kuno Palpur Can Be Asiatic Lions' 2nd Home

The union minister for forest and environment Jairam Ramesh added a fresh chapter to the Asiatic lion controversy by first suggesting that as per experts' suggestions, the Asiatic lions should have a second home in Kuno Palpur, Madhya Pradesh.

The minister was quick to retract from his earlier statement and later told TOI that he did not want to get into the dispute and that "the two governments – Gujarat and MP - should sort the issue on their own." The minister visited Sasan Gir Sanctuary in Junagadh district on Thursday. Ever since 1986, the two governments have been fighting a battle over whether or not to relocate lions to MP for the Kuno Palpur project. A petition is also pending in the Supreme Court seeking directions for relocation of lions.

Talking to TOI over phone from Junagadh, he said "the Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has made three to four representations to me asking to pressurise the Gujarat government to hand over lions. I have on one occasion asked the State Government to allocate lions, but now I have made it clear that it was between the two governments to fight it out and the union forest and environment ministry has no role to play. I have asked Chauhan to take it up with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi."

Jairam said the main concern is bio diversity. "The state has created new sanctuaries like Girnar, Mitiyala among others. The center is supporting the conservation project and Rs 50 crore in the next five years will be allocated to the state to open new sanctuaries. The allocation was under the Brihad Gir Development project." He said that the centre will support the Gujarat government to establish a genetic laboratory to develop a gene pool for the Asiatic Lions. The state has already formed three gene at Sakkarbag Zoo, Rampara Sanctuary and the forest area near Devaliya interpretation zone. Principal secretary, Gujarat forest and environment, SK Nanda said: "We informed him of the gene pool measures taken by the government, which he lauded and promised to support in future."

Wankaner an alternative site for cheetah?

Ahmedabad: After Gujarat lost the race to get cheetahs to Banni grassland in Kutch, a replacement site-Wankaner was suggested by the government for introducing cheetahs to the country. "I will ask the expert technical committee, formed under the chairmanship of Dr N K Ranjitsinh, to look into the alternative site although we have already shortlisted Kuno Palpur in MP and Gajner in Rajasthan for the allocation of Cheetahs," said Union minister for environment and forest Jairam Ramesh after receiving Wankaner as alternative site. Ramesh was in the state to review the Girnar ropeway project.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mangrol adopts whale shark as mascot

Mangrol adopts whale shark as mascot
Times of India

Mangrol, a small fishing town situated along Gujarat coast, now has whale shark as its mascot. The announcement was made during the Whale Shark Day celebrations on Tuesday, marking the culmination of six years of successful Save The Whale Shark campaign.  

Mangrol is the seventh town in Gujarat to have adopted whale shark as a city mascot. Earlier, Porbandar, Diu, Okha, Ahmedabad, Veraval and Dwarka had adopted the whale shark as their official mascot.

The whale shark campaign, launched in January 2004, is an initiative of Gujarat forest department and Wildlife Trust of India-International Fund for Animal Welfare (WTI-IFAW). The campaign is supported by Tata Chemicals Limited.

The species was previously hunted in hundreds in Gujarat for their liver oil which is used to water-proof boats, and the by-products including meat and fins were exported. The whale shark is now safe on the shores of Gujarat because of the fishing community, the Indian Coast Guard, the local people and popular spiritual leader Morari Bapu.

"Since the launch of the campaign, over 240 whale sharks accidentally caught in the fishing nets were freed by the people," said Anita Karn, DCF, Junagadh.

The Whale Shark Day celebrations kicked off with a rally by hundreds of children. A 40-feet long inflatable whale shark was taken from Parmeshwar Vidyalaya to the venue of the event at Mangrol. The event was chaired by chief conservator of forests S K Chaturvedi and was attended by MLA Rajgi Jatwa among others.

Chaturvedi said, "The city of Mangrol has been closely associated with whale shark conservation for the last four years. The fisher folk have carried out many rescues. It is a matter of great pride that they are now taking their dedication to the next level by officially adopting the Vhali."

On March 12, 2005, the postal department of Gujarat came out with a special whale shark postal cover and TCL awarded the BNHS Green Governance award on November 10, 2005, for the whale shark campaign.

Rajbir Singh Saini, head administration, TCL, said, "Over the years, the Whale Shark Conservation Project has grown in leaps and bounds. TCL is committed to saving the flora and fauna."

The campaign`s overwhelming success lay in its multiple strategic approach which connected human emotions to socio-cultural beliefs. Morari Bapu established a comparison of the whale shark to a daughter returning home to give birth. This message was spread across the coastal towns through street plays and awareness campaigns and proved instrumental in the success of the project.

"There is no other species in India that has a `day` dedicated to it, and no other species, let alone a fish, has been adopted by so many cities as their mascot," said Rahul Kaul, senior director at WTI. "The campaign has covered one aspect of whale shark conservation in India. Now, the focus will be on generating scientific information on the species for its conservation," he added. The forest department, WTI-IFAW and TCL are currently undertaking scientific studies on whale sharks.

Illegal mining: After HC rap, govt orders to form panels

Illegal mining: After HC rap, govt orders to form panels
Indian Express

Move based on a PIL filed by Amit Jethava days before his murder in July last year

The state government has recently issued a notification to constitute grievance redressal committees at state, district and taluka levels to look into the complaints regarding illegal mining and transportation in Gujarat.

The notification, issued on January 17, comes following an order of the Gujarat High Court with reference to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by RTI and environment activist Amit Jethava. The PIL had sought directions to the authorities to check the illegal mining activities going on in the periphery of Gir sanctuary.

In the PIL, Jethava, who was shot dead in front of the HC a few days after the filing of the petition, had named BJP Junagadh MP Dinu Solanki as the person at whose behest the illegal activity had been going on.

Acting on the PIL, a Division Bench had last month expressed dissatisfaction over the attempts on the part of the government to prevent illegal mining. "...There is nothing on record to suggest that the state has fixed any responsibility and accountability on anyone or other officer...No grievance redressal committee has been constituted for the local people who may bring illegal mining to the notice of the authorities," the court had observed.

The HC had then ordered the principal secretary of the state mines and minerals department to appear before it on Friday to discuss the matter in detail. Today, when Principal Secretary M Sahu appeared before the court, the latter stated that the purpose of calling him was to make the government realise the gravity of the situation.

Meanwhile, the government pleader had placed an affidavit before the court regarding the steps taken by the government so far. The affidavit stated that the government has issued the notification to form grievance redressal committees, and and a resolution was issued in this regard on January 17.

According to the resolution, the state-level panel would be headed by the chief secretary whereas the district and taluka level committees would be headed by the respective district collectors and prant officers.

Gujarat sets up special task force to check illegal mining

Gujarat sets up special task force to check illegal mining

The Gujarat government has informed the High court that it has formed a special task force (STF) and grievance redressal committees at state and district levels to check illegal mining.

Information regarding this was placed in form of an affidavit before the division bench of Chief Justice S J Mukhopadhaya and Justice Akil Kureshi, while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) against illegal mining in Gir forest region. The PIL was filed by RTI activist Amit Jethva a few days before he was shot dead.

The court in its order of December 21 had directed the Principal Secretary, Mines and Minerals Department, to remain present and had also ordered government to file an action taken report (ATR) with regard to the implementation of Gujarat Mineral (Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation and Storage) Rules, 2005.

Following the order, Principal Secretary Maheshwar Sahu remained present before the court and the government also filed an affidavit along with ATR.

According to the affidavit, government has formed a special task force and grievance redressal committee at state and district levels through a notification dated January 17.

The government further said it will hold police personnel, revenue staff and officers of Geology and Mining department of the concerned area accountable and liable for negligence, if there was detection of illegal mining activities in their area. .

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Farmers build six feet high MACHANS for protection from lions

Farmers build six feet high MACHANS for protection from lions
Gujarat Samachar
Briefly Translated from Gujarati

About 24 lions live in Gadhia village in Dhari Taluka of gir East. These animals are in the area since many decades as village is very near to Gir sanctuary. But recently 'Lion Show' craze has increased too much in the area ( of course with help of some local touts )  Too many Groups of people visit the area to see lion on kill or mother – cub prides or the KING male -duos. On holidays and Sunday lines of luxury cars pile up for such lion shows. So much of human intervention in privacy of lions have made them irritating in behaviour

Normally lions would not attack unless disturbed. But because of such frequent disturbance from people they have started retaliating. This has cause life of local farmers miserable.

These farmers have to guard their crop from blue-bulls and porcupines for whole night. Few years back they had no fear visiting lions. But now due to changed behaviour of lions are very much afraid of lion attack. Hence they have to built 6 feet high machans for protection of their life.

It is high time forest department must do something to stop such lions show else this will increase human – animals conflict in all the periherial villages.

Lion jumps over Seven feet wall to kill

Lion jumps over Seven feet wall to kill
Gujarat Samachar
Briefly Translated from Gujarati

Lions moving outside forest area in search of food is increasing it seems

Four lions, yesterday came to Bilavad village near Una. This village is near gir (East) forest. As such wild animals are frequently visiting this Village. Two of four lions, jumped 7 feet high wall of Rafiqbhai Dudabhai and attacked heard of goat. On hearing the scared goats making sound, residents got up and lion fled away. But for whole night four lions moved in village streets, scarring villagers.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ramesh cancels visit to Girnar ropeway site

Ramesh cancels visit to Girnar ropeway site
Times of India

Union minister for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh, who was to visit Sasan Gir Asiatic Lion Sanctuary and the site of proposed ropeway project at Girnar Mountains in Junagadh district, had cancelled the programme at the last moment, leaving many people disappointed.

Ramesh was to arrive at Sasan Gir on the night of January 14. On Saturday morning, the minister was to see the Asiatic lions at the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and then visit the proposed site of Girnar Ropeway Project, which awaits clearance from his ministry and is delayed for various reasons. The project went for approval to the Union ministry of environment and forests after the 178.88 sq km area, including Mount Girnar in Girnar forest, was declared as wildlife sanctuary in 2008.

Conservationists say the proposed ropeway project will harm the nests of vultures, an endangered species, located on the mountains. "We have made several representations and also sent one lakh signatures to the Union environment ministry, asking that the project be given the nod. When we met Jairam Ramesh in Delhi, he assured us that he would visit the place, but has not been able to do so far. We urge him to either visit the site at the earliest or give nod to the project," said Junagadh BJP MLA Mahendra Masharu.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Jairam Ramesh to visit Girnar ropeway project site

Jairam Ramesh to visit Girnar ropeway project site
Times of India

Union minister for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh will visit Gir wildlife sanctuary on Friday. He will also go to Girnar to assess the proposed ropeway project at Girnar mountain in Junagadh, which has been long awaiting clearance from his ministry.

The minister is expected to arrive at Sasan-Gir on the Friday night and stay overnight. On Saturday morning, he will go to see the Asiatic lions and then leave for Junagadh. Official sources say that during his visit to Junagadh, he will interact with local people and political leaders who have been pressing for the ropeway project, as it will bring in tourists.

The project has been delayed for various reasons since its foundation stone was laid by chief minister Narendra Modi in May 2007. But, after Girnar forest - covering around 178.88 sq km area including Mount Girnar - was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 2008, the project went for approval to the Union ministry of environment and forests.

The proposed ropeway project site is located at Girnar mountain, which is inside the Girnar wildlife sanctuary. According to the latest estimates, there are 24 lions in the sanctuary and conservationists say that the proposed ropeway project would harm the nest of vultures, an endangered species, which roost on the mountains.

Lions Invade Villages and Attack Livestock in India's Gujarat State

Lions Invade Villages and Attack Livestock in India's Gujarat State
NTD Television

Villagers residing in the border areas of the Gir Forest in India's western state of Gujarat are living in constant fear as lions frequently enter their village.

[Ashwin Naliyadhara, Farmer]:
"Our village is very close to the jungle. Lions constantly enter the village and harm our livestock and kill them. So there is lot of fear in the village."

On Tuesday night, a lioness barged into a cattle shed and attacked a cow in Gigasan village.

Out of fear, the villagers now graze their cattle within the village perimeter.

Villagers say one night the big cats attacked two cows, one bull and seven goats in the village.

The lions confidently enter fields and villages, forcing terrified villagers into their homes.

The Gir Forest National park is the biggest reserve for Asiatic lions in India and houses more than 400 lions.

AMC to host environment film festival from Jan 17

AMC to host environment film festival from Jan 17
Times of India

Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation AMC will jointly host a green film festival from January 17-22. It will feature as many as 40 films on environment to be shown at different schools and colleges in the city. "Six of the films are based on the environment of Gujarat, including the film 'The Asiatic Lion - on a roll call', which will be shown at the inaugural ceremony. Screening of every film will be followed by a series of discussions," said Narender Yadav from CMS at a press conference.

The green film festival and forum is based on the idea of informing and educating the youth about the importance of national parks and their contribution to the environment by means of issue-based films. The event It will also emphasise on local environme-ntal problems and recommend solutions. It has two segme-nts - the competitive and the travelling film festival. Environmental issues like pollution, reducing forest cover and conservation of flora and fauna will be addressed supported by panel discussions, a filmmaking workshop and an eco-tour.

There will also be a workshop for school teachers.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

India: Gujarat's wildlife, culture and cuisine

India: Gujarat's wildlife, culture and cuisine
The Telegraph

Gujarat, India's most westerly state, offers an intoxicating mix of culture, scenery and wildlife, says Martin Dixon.

The Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is home to more than 350 Asiatic lions

Three jeeps of camera-toting visitors swung off the jungle track into a clearing. Trackers stood at the ready, armed with batons and two-way radios. Ahead, just 20 feet away, lay two kings of the jungle. Unconcerned by the arrival of intruders, the pair of young male lions dozed in the shade of a fig tree.
I'm no expert, but these animals seemed slightly smaller and stockier than those I'd seen in Africa. They are said to have thinner manes and a thicker tuft at the end of the tail, too, but I was not planning to get close enough to check.
India is not the obvious place to come in search of lions, but the state of Gujarat is their only Asian natural habitat. Covering an area roughly the size of London, the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is home to more than 350 Asiatic lions, as well as panthers and leopards.
"I promised you lions today," cried Mitain, our guide, slapping my thigh enthusiastically. "I very happy now."

If sighting game is all you want from your escort then Mitain is your man. Within another 20 minutes of trundling over dry, rocky scrub and burbling streams, we came face to face with a whole pride gorging on a high tea of wild boar.

"Now I find you leopards," Mitain beamed, struggling to hide his excitement. Sadly this would prove beyond him, but on our tour we'd already seen numerous peacocks, kingfishers, spotted deer, antelopes and wild boar.
The park has been such a successful sanctuary for big cats that the population has almost outgrown its natural resources. Some have migrated beyond the park in search of fresher pastures and more available game.

Notwithstanding the inevitable friction this has caused with local inhabitants on the park's perimeter, some of the creatures have shown great taste in their choice of new habitat. Lions have been sighted as far away as Junagadh, 50 miles to the north, in the Girnar Hills, the site of the awe-inspiring Jain temples and an important religious centre.
Leopards have been seen in the hills around Palitana, 100 miles to the east, and home to yet more enchanting Jain temples. A lion was even tracked strutting along a palm-fringed beach on the island of Diu, 50 miles to the south.

Junagadh is a fascinating small town of narrow, winding streets, crumbling relics from colonial times and a skyline of shining domes and minarets. We spent a lazy afternoon exploring dusty lanes lined with small stores selling everything from ropes and hooks to mounds of colourful spices.

Its most celebrated attraction is the rather daunting 10,000-step climb that winds up Mount Girnar, to a chain of superb Jain temples near the summit. Its peak is the highest point in Gujarat and on a clear day the view stretches almost as far as the sea, some 50 miles to the south. Before you lie the dry rolling hills and lush fertile planes of the Saurashtra Peninsula, punctuated by the occasional hulks of fuming chemical factories and modern manufacturing plants. Happily, these do little to detract from the surroundings' natural beauty but are reminders of the country's rapid industrialisation.

Gujarat provides the visitor with perhaps the best insight into the new India, where rapacious economic development and modern consumerism rub shoulders with extreme poverty, spiritual and religious diversity, and tribal and nomadic ways.

Travelling south to the coast, we passed oxen pulling hay carts, while across the road gleaming new combine harvesters cruised through golden wheat fields.

The descent down the mountain took such a toll on our ageing legs that we struggled to make it out of bed the next day. However, there was a sense of satisfaction in having done something to work off the mounting effects of Gujarat's delicious cuisine. Its sweet thalis are memorable, the largely vegetarian diet makes full use of a rich mix of local spices, and the fresh fish on the coast is a delight.

If temples are your thing, just outside the busy town of Palitana there are more than 900 of them. The holy hill of Shatrunjaya (which translates as "Dawn to Dusk") is India's principal Jain pilgrimage site and attracts worshippers from all over the world.

It is a much shorter and easier climb than Girnar, at just 2,000 steps, but for the lazy or infirm, pall-bearers are at hand to carry you up for a small fee. We made it in less than one hour, led by the clanging of bells and murmur of rites from the great citadel above.

At the summit, this city of temples proved a breathtaking sight of spires and towers, hemmed in by mighty protective walls. Despite the crowds, it felt wonderfully peaceful and afforded beautiful views over the flat pastureland below.

When religious fervour and city chaos became too much, the palm-fringed beaches of Diu Island were a welcome relief. Along with Goa and the nearby sea town of Daman, Diu was a colony of Portugal until the Sixties and is just about the only place you can drink alcohol in the dry state of Gujarat.

The island is tiny: barely two miles by eight, but we could have spent an age lolling on its golden beaches.

A short walk from our hotel at Nagoa and we had a whole beach to ourselves. The only interruption to our solitude was a stray dog taking sleepy respite in the shade of a palm tree. As the tide drifted out, women in colourful saris appeared to comb the exposed rock pools for shellfish.

The next day we explored Diu Town, a colonial relic with a maze of colourful narrow alleys and an imposing fort that looks out over the Gulf of Cambay. The streets were full of dilapidated houses painted in fading pastel colours. Sea blues and mustard yellows and ochre reds provided hints of former glory.

Nearer the great fort we stumbled across the glorious white fa├žade of St Paul's church, with its attractive turquoise-patterned ceiling. When we arrived, wardens were busily chasing roosting pigeons out of its interior.

Heading back to the town centre we came across travel agent Jorge, one of many village elders whose mother tongue has remained Portuguese. To judge by the expletives levelled at his fellow agents in neighbouring Rajasthan and elsewhere, he clearly cherished Gujarat's quainter attitude to tourism.

"Where else can you find lions in India?" he barked.

For the moment he has a point, but moves are afoot to relocate some of the animals to the neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh to ease overcrowding at Gir.

Some fear this may reduce Gujarat's draw – and it may, but happily there is much more besides to India's most westerly state than its big cats.

Monday, January 10, 2011

MP-Gujarat battle over Asiatic lion's share hots up

MP-Gujarat battle over Asiatic lion's share hots up

Bandh in Sheopur district of MP after Modi refuses to translocate the big cats

LOCALS in Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh are upset with the Gujarat government's decision to disallow translocation of Asiatic lions to the PalpurKuno sanctuary there, a move which they say will hamper tourism and employment prospects in the area.
The issue of translocation has become a bone of contention between the two BJP-ruled states as Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has refused to part with the Asiatic lions to the neighbouring state, following which a day-long bandh was observed on January 4 in the district to protest the move. Sheopur District Youth Congress President, Atul Chouhan, who gave the bandh call, has demanded that the lions be immediately translocated to Palpur-Kuno sanctuary as it is now ready to accommodate the lions.

He claimed Palpur-Kuno was shortlisted as a second home for Asiatic Lions by Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India after selecting six places nearly 15-16 years ago.

Also, a total of 28 villages were shifted out of the Palpur-Kuno sanctuary, spread in an area of nearly 340 sq km, Chouhan said.

"Nearly 6500 families, mostly tribals, have handed over their agriculture land to the forest department for welcoming Asiatic Lions

into their area," he said.
The rehabilitation was carried out by spending huge amount of taxpayers money. Now, in these 28 villages and other adjoining areas, people feel cheated as they were hoping to get employment once the lions are shifted to the sanctuary, he said.

Also, the people of Madhya Pradesh have sacrificed their land twice — first in Palpur-Kuno and second time in Harsud in Khandwa district for the Sardar Sarovar Project on river Narmada — and now the time has come for them (Gujarat) to pay back by parting with a few pairs of lions so that people of the region get the much needed employment," he said.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Gir popularity soars, 33% rise in inflow of foreign tourists

Gir popularity soars, 33% rise in inflow of foreign tourists

TOI By Himanshu Kaushik

The financial health of Asiatic lion conservation plan is improving by the day. Not just domestic, the number of foreign tourists too has registered a jump of 33 per cent in 2010.

Forest officials said that from October to December 2010, Gir Wildlife Sanctuary had 2,432 foreign tourists as against 1,827 in 2009 during the same period. This is an increase of 33 per cent. In the first three months, ever since the sanctuary opened, around 70 per cent of the income has been collected by the department. It had a revenue of 2.1 crore last year. But, in the three months from October, the revenue of Gir and Devaliya went over Rs 1.45 crore, which is about 70 per cent of the last year's collection.

Not just foreign nationals, but total tourist figure has seen a jump of 96 per cent in Gir National Park. In 2009, from October 1 to December 31, there were just 25,801 tourists who visited the sanctuary. But, during the same period in 2010, despite rain for four days and the sanctuary beginning operations only on October 15, the total number of visitors to the Gir sanctuary was 50,714.

The upward trend is attributed not just to Amitabh Bachachan's advertisements.The lion conservation issue of Gir received worldwide publicity because of the population estimation which was taken up in April 2010. It revealed that the forest in Saurashtra now houses only 411 lions.

"This year, the attention of media as well as experts was on Gir forest as the first population estimation took place after the 2007 poaching incident. This got due coverage and an awareness was also created," said a senior officer. Officials said there have been reports of 90 per cent sightings of lions during the safari.

Officials added that the revenue of Gir sanctuary and Devaliya has gone up considerably. According to them, in the last three months from October, the Gir sanctuary and Devaliya have pocketed Rs 1.44 crore, compared to the Rs 1 crore in the same period last year. Devaliya only saw a increase of 21 per cent as compared to last year. Officials said the domestic tourist flow other than Gujaratis has also increased by 41 per cent, said officials.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Lion dies in MP zoo

Lion dies in MP zoo

A hybrid lion died in the Van Vihar Zoo and Animal Rescue Centre here due to old-age related ailments, officials said today.

The lion named ''Suhag'', which died yesterday, aged over 15 years, Zoo veterinarian Dr Atul Gupta said.

''Suhag'', a cross of African and Asiatic lion, was rescued from a circus at Madhya Pradesh''s Hoshangabad district and brought to the Zoo on March 24, 1999, when it was over four years old, Gupta said.

''Suhag'', whose height was shorter than normal lions, was not kept for public display, zoo officials said.

The lion''s body was disposed off after postmortem, they said.

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