By DNA Correspondent | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
In his maiden visit to Gir since he took charge of the environment portfolio, minister of state Jairam Ramesh stirred the hornet's nest by stating that Gujarat needs to part with some lions and that they need to be shifted to a second home in Madhya Pradesh.
Ramesh is on a two-day visit to the state, primarily to take a call on the Girnar Ropeway Project on Girnar Hill, allegedly passing through 26 endangered vultures' nests. During the day, Ramesh had a short closed-door meeting with forest officials and local leaders. Principal Secretary, environment and forest, SK Nanda said, "He has received the information he needed and has asked us to meet him in Delhi on February 2, where he will take the final call on the ropeway project."
Speaking to the media, Ramesh said the Gujarat government should consider translocating some lions to a second home in the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in MP.
The Gujarat government has already rejected the proposal several times before on grounds that the Gir lions were the 'pride' of the state.
During his visit to the sanctuary, Ramesh also visited the Maldharis nesses which are inside the sanctuary. He told the forest officials that the Maldharis should be moved out of the forest at the earliest and that the central government was willing to bear the rehabilitation expenses.
According to Nanda, the sanctuary houses some 1,200 Maldhari families and the cost of moving each family is approximated at Rs10 lakh. "He will put the proposal in front of the planning commission and seek a sanction of funds," Nanda said.
The issue of sharing Gir lions is a bone of contention between both the governments and the Centre. "More than 1,000 lions have died due to diseases in Tanzania. Here in Gir, the lions have an inbred population and the genetic diversity of the lionsis also limited," Ramesh said after a visit to the sanctuary.
"Many scientists are of the view that the lions should have a second home. Several international scientists have written to me to create a second home for the big cat. I have written several times to the Gujarat Government to transfer some lions to MP. But the government here thinks lions are their pride possession," Ramesh said, adding that someday the proposal will be accepted by the state government.
Ramesh also praised the forest department's conservation efforts and the plan to create a genetic diversity mapping project.