Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Gujarat offers hefty sum to shift out of Gir.

3 Jul 2009, 2028 hrs IST, IANS

GANDHINAGAR: The Gujarat government is planning to shift some 100 families of the Maldhari community living inside the sprawling Gir National
Park as part of a project to resettle these herdsmen outside the sanctuary, officials said on Friday.
According to the plan, prepared by the state environment and forests department, each family will receive a compensation of Rs. 1 million and would be rehabilitated outside the sanctuary by the end of 2010, an official of the department said, requesting anonymity.

He added that the compensation amount has already been allocated in the Gujarat State Budget 2009-10, announced by State Finance Minister Vajubhai Vala in the assembly on the opening day of its monson session.

The Maldharis have been living inside the Gir sanctuary for centuries and consistently refused proposals for relocation made by the past state governments since 1972.

However, the government has now worked out a compensation package which may be acceptable to the Maldharis, he said.

Over the years, the state government could persuade only a small number of Maldhari families to relocate, while the rest of the herdsmen continued to live inside the national park, the official added.

The Gir sanctuary, spread over 1,000 sq. km in western Gujarat, is home to some 350 Asiatic lions - the only place where the species can still be found in the wild now.

Experts say the lions are threatened by man-animal conflict, accidents and poaching. Earlier, a proposal to shift a pride of lions to Madhya Pradesh's Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary was made, but it has been rejected by the state government citing security reasons. The case is pending in the Supreme Court.

Gujarat govt transfers 345 hectares forest land to industries.

By our correspondent
Gandhinagar, DeshGujarat, 5 July, 2009

The Government of Gujarat yesterday decided to de-notify hundreds of hectares of state forest land in four sanctuary areas-the Wild Ass Sanctuary in the Little Rann of Kutch, Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Velavadar Black Buck Sanctuary and Narayan Sarovar Bird Sanctuary. De-notification was in agenda of Gujarat Wildlife Board meeting presided by Chief minister Narendra Modi. Influential industrial houses had their way and the board led by Chief Minister Modi approved transfer of forest land to industries. This decision will result into a severe threat of industrial and human activity in Gujarat’s forest areas.

The board approved diversion of 89.74 hectare land in the Wild Ass Sanctuary for the power transmission line of Adani Power Ltd and 241.59 hectare land for Power Grid Corporation’s transmission lines. The board also approved diversion of 7.28 hectare land for Usha Breco Ltd for ropeway construction in Girnar Sanctuary; 4.40 hectare land from Velavadar black buck Sanctuary for Gujarat State Road Development Corporation (GSRDC) for construction of a six-lane Sarkhej-Vataman-Bhavnagar central spine road; 0.315 ha land diversion for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd for laying of fibre optic lines in Balaram-Ambaji Sanctuary, 0.45 ha land diversion for Vodafone Gujarat Limited for laying of fibre optics in Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary and 0.45 ha land diversion for Reliance Communication Gujarat Ltd in Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary. The proposal passed by the state government will now be sent to the National Wildlife Board and the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to be forwarded to the apex court for final approval.

Other decisions taken in the meeting are following.

-The government will encourage tribal people to plant ten trees on the occasion of child birth in their family. The family would be awarded ownership of that tree which can ultimately provide income to the tribal family. The Forest department would design a project about this.

-Gir sanctuary will get Garlanding road project, Lion breeding strategy and Leo-Gen laboratory for genetic research about the Asiatic Lion.

-1939 hectares area of Gir sanctuary will be released and 2141 hectare forest area will be added.

-Gujarat government will celebrate Jeevdaya week to celebrate Paryushan, a Jain festival.

Royal snub for the Gir lion.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 9:16 IST

Ahmedabad: For the second consecutive year, the Union budget has left Asiatic lions in the lurch. Gujarat's demand for funds from the Central government for the lions' conservation has gone unheeded. On the other hand, over the past one year, Rs650 crore have been allotted for conservation of tigers.
The Gujarat government had sought Rs 60 crore for rehabilitation of 100 Maldharis from their habitat inside the sanctuary area in Gir forest in 2007 and Rs 20 crore in 2008. In its latest request, Gujarat had demanded Rs 10 crore. Rs50 crore was reserved in the Union budget as a one-time grant for tiger conservation in 2008-09 budget.

Principal conservator of forest (wildlife) Pradip Khanna said the state requires funds for lion conservation, to acquire land in the area surrounding the Gir sanctuary for the increasing lion population and gene-pool diversification.

However, the environmentalists in Gujarat are celebrating the Centre's National Action Plan on Climate Change. "Though it came about two years late, it is heartening that the plan has finally been put in place. It is depressing that the need for environment courts has not been mentioned in the budget altogether. We hope it would be addressed soon," said Mahesh Pandya, an environment activist.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Incessant downpour floods Junagadh, 10 inch rain recorded in Sutrapada.

Sibte Husain Bukhari Posted: Thursday , Jun 25, 2009 at 0028 hrs IST


Torrential downpour coupled with strong winds in the last 24 hours threw normal life out of gear in the district on Wednesday, with a few places recording 10 inches rainfall. In Una and Kodinar talukas, four persons were injured when lightning struck them. The condition of one of them is said to be critical.

The depression formed over the Arabian Sea off the Veraval coast has, meanwhile, weakened and danger signals hoisted at various ports have been removed. According to port officials, a fishing boat registered with the Saiyed Rajpara Port capsized in the sea. All the six crew members onboard were rescued.

According to district flood control room, Sutrapada taluka recorded the heaviest rainfall at 255 mm. It was followed by Mangarol 225 mm, Veraval 212 mm, Kodinar 120 mm, Keshod 111 mm, Talala and Manawadar 75 mm each, Maliya 71 mm, Vanthali and Una 60 mm each, Mendarada 55 mm, Visavadar 45 mm, Bhesan 43 mm and Junagadh city 41 mm rainfall.


Scope of a second home for Gir lions remains mired.

New Delhi (IANS): India's Asiatic lions are the most vulnerable of all the big cats as they live in a single area in Gujarat, making them prone to diseases as well as other threats, and yet calls for creating a second home by the scientific community have been repeatedly ignored, say experts.

The sprawling Gir National Park in western India is home to some 350 Asiatic lions, the last refuge for these cats. In the past, the lions had roamed in almost the entire Central Asia.

The Wildlife Institute of India (WII), a leading scientific organisation, recommended the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh for setting up a second home for the Gir lions.

But the Gujarat government rejected the proposal, saying it lacks scientific backing and security.

Experts believe Kuno in central India is part of the lion's historical home range.

Gujarat says if Madhya Pradesh cannot protect their tigers, how can they protect the lions.

Supreme Court lawyer Ritwick Dutta, who has taken up the case filed by the Biodiversity Conservation Trust of India, a Delhi-based NGO, in the Supreme Court for transfer of the lions, told IANS: "If the issue is not resolved, there would be a huge economic loss."

"The 24 villages that were inside the Kuno reserve have been resettled elsewhere to make room for the Gir lions and an estimated Rs.15 crore has been spent on the project," said Mr. Dutta.

However, with the recent admission by the Madhya Pradesh government that there are no tigers left in the Panna reserve, it might just assure the Gujarat government of its case.

But Faiyaz Khudsar, a wildlife biologist who heads the NGO and has worked in Kuno for the lion relocation programme, says, "Wild animals confined to a single area can spell death knell to their long-term survival, and this has been proved by science."

"Some years ago in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, at least 25 per cent of the African lion population there was wiped out due to the canine distemper disease, (a fatal viral disease) and the rest of the lions fell sick. This shows how a single epidemic can wipe out the entire lion population in the park," said Mr. Khudsar.

The Serengeti Park, a Unesco World Heritage site, is spread across more than 14,000 sq km, whereas Gir has an area of just over 1,000 sq km. Despite the sprawling size of Serengeti, the African lions fell to the onslaught of the viral disease, he maintains.

Besides, inbreeding over a period of time can render a population confined to a single area genetically weak, as they don't get the chance to mate with stronger partners from other geographical areas, making them more prone to diseases, he said.

Gir lions are also threatened by poaching, man-animal conflict and accidents. Many lions have died recently after falling into the wells created to provide water for flora and fauna of the park.

"If Gujarat says that there is a security issue in Kuno, then why are the lions straying out of Gir. Some of the lions are even reaching Daman and Diu," said Mr. Khudsar.

"The only solution left is to create different populations in different areas. The geographical barriers might help the lions evolve stronger genes in the near future that would ensure their long-term survival," he explains.