“It is too early to say anything as the plan is in the nascent stage as of now,” said chief wildlife warden CN Pandey. Hipavadli is in Amreli district while Ranigada is in Bhavnagar. The 16-km zone is likely to be on the border of the two districts.
Apart from easing the tourist pressure on Sasan, the move is also aimed at targeting visitors coming to the pilgrimage centres of Palitana and Bagdana.
Palitana is 50 km and Bagdana is 25 km away from the proposed tourism zone. Both the places host over 3 lakh tourists every year.
The proposed tourism zone will have a reception centre, parking, waiting room, parking for private vehicles. Visitors will also get guided tours.
“The lions that had earlier lost their territory are regaining them. Apart from Gir Sanctuary, Gir National Park, Girnar, Mithyala and Paniya, they have now also spread to the coastal areas of Saurashtra. In fact, the lions are spread around 15,000 sq km region which is now called the Greater Gir and this tourism zone is part of it,” said Pandey.
The forest department is also working towards making Barda an alternate habitat for the lions. At present, the department is concentrating on improving the prey-base in the area. A spotted deer breeding programme is already underway and 60 animals have already been released. Interestingly Barda was earlier home to the Asiatic lions. They were last seen here in 1881.