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.

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