Saturday, March 30, 2013
Gujarat loses lionâ€™s share of grants.
AHMEDABAD: The lion's share of conversation funds in the country are meant only for the tiger. For the Asiatic lion, found only in Gujarat, the central government seems to have only peanuts. The Planning Commission has asked the Gujarat government to slash its project to preserve the lions outside the Gir sanctuary by Rs 100 crore.
Of the 411 lions found in the wild, 120-odd are living outside the Gir sanctuary and need to be monitored. Last year, the commission had agreed 'in principle' to allocate Rs 262.36 crore over five years for the project 'Consolidating Long Term Conservation of Asiatic Lion in Greater Gir'.
On March 26, 2012, Union minister of state for forest and environment Jayanthi Natarajan had replied to an unstarred question in Parliament raised by Gwalior MP Yashodhara Raje Scindia that the fund was approved.
But, when it came to releasing the money, the commission officials told state forest officials to scale down the project. According to them, Rs 262.62 crore was too big an amount to be spent on just one state.
For the record, the Centre has spent close to Rs 700 crore on tiger conservation in the past decade, a point that Gujarat officials raised when a Planning Commission team visited the state recently. "We were told that the tiger deserved more funds because several states were involved and that lions were limited only to Gujarat," said a state forest department official.
The state forest department has been told to scale down the spending to Rs 150 crore. Instead of an elaborate conservation plan for the lions, Gujarat is now only asking funds for gadgets that help track the animals and communication devices for the foresters. S K Goyal, principal chief conservator of forest, said "We have sent a revised proposal."
Gujarat should not be penalised for being the only state protecting the Asiatic lions. It is the fault of other states that lions today have been driven from the rest of India into a corner in Saurashtra. Gujarat has worked hard to bring this unique species back from the brink of extinction to a stage where they are multiplying and conquering new territories. The fact that their habitat is still small can't be a reason to deprive Gujarat of funds. Gujarat should in fact be given more incentives so that the symbol of the government of India is well taken care of.