However, plastic has now invaded the entire Gir sanctuary which is the last abode of Asiatic lions. In fact, around 200 km of public roads pass through the sanctuary, of which nearly 175 km is in Gir (west) division. Plastic — empty water bottles and packets of snacks — is strewn on both sides of the roads in the protected area.
Concerned, the forest department on Friday launched the first-ever drive to clean the sanctuary of plastic. While rough estimates suggest that there could be 10 tonnes of plastic inside the sanctuary, on the first day itself, volunteers collected about 580 kg plastic waste from Gir (west) division.
"Only the core zone is free of plastic as we make sure that no tourists litter the area during their visit," said an official.
It is on the public roads passing through the sanctuary where the menace is the maximum.
"Non-vegetarian food leftovers, condoms and plastic wastes were found under bridges. Many hotels in the area dump the waste into water channels in the forest," said a volunteer.
"Plastic in the forest and the sanctuary is a serious issue that affects the ecosystem. Only cleaning will not solve the problem. The government must come out with a permanent solution," said nature conservationist Revtubha Raijada, who is among the volunteers.