Monday, March 30, 2015

Gujarat cuts lion safaris in Gil forest by half after farmer's one-man protest.

It began with an anonymous letter to the Gujarat High Court about the mushrooming of illegal hotels and guest houses in and around the Gir lion sanctuary. 
But now, a farmer’s effort has finally bore fruit as the Gujarat government has reduced the number of safaris from 90 to 45 a day in the lion sanctuary. 
Mail Today had highlighted the proliferation of illegal hotels, farmhouses and guest houses around the sanctuary, causing disturbance at the only abode of Asiatic lions. 
The forest department has reduced the number of lion safaris in Gir sanctuary from 90 to 45 a day
The forest department has reduced the number of lion safaris in Gir sanctuary from 90 to 45 a day
The court had converted the letter into a suo motu petition, and the state government had to accept through an affidavit that 66 illegal structures were operating in Gir-Somnath, Junagadh and Amreli districts. 
The Gujarat HC then directed the state government to halt all activities there if the property owners did not submit mandatory permissions. 
It was in February that farmer Naran Solanki blocked entry to Bhambhafod forest check-post after he found that the dirt track, on which the tourism department’s lion safari vehicles plied through, was encroaching his agricultural land which actually is a mango orchard. 
Solanki says: “I own the land and often requested the authorities to remove encroachments on part of it while the remaining space was used for the lion safaris.” 
When no action took place despite his repeated requests, Solanki decided to block the lion safari route for tourists. 
This forced the tourism department to try out another entry point to the Gir forest, but this did not last long as the forest department denied spot permissions for lion safaris on that route.
Eventually, the forest department was forced to cut the number of lion safaris for tourists from 90 to 45 a day. 
“The move has also helped reduce disturbance to lions that have been straying out of the forest for some years,” a forest department official said. 
According to the official: “The tourist traffic was making things difficult at one entry point and this is why we reduced the number of permissions for lion safaris. 
"The Gujarat government may have had superstar Amitabh Bachchan with his ‘Khushboo Gujarat ki’ campaign, but this added to the number of tourists, many of whom just have no idea how to behave in a wildlife sanctuary.” 
According to the forest department, tourists coming to Sasan Gir without prior online permission are being diverted to Gir Interpretation Zone at Devaliya. 
Gir Interpretation Zone is a safari park near Sasan Gir, where a few Asiatic lions and other wild animals are kept in captivity for tourists.

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