Now, the government has decided to drastically shrink the ESZ to just 500 metres and is preparing to send a new proposal to the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) for its nod. This essentially means that if the shrunk ESZ is appro ved, all types of construction activity, including com mercially lucrative re sorts, hotels and mi ning, could be carried out more closer to the lions' habitat.
Sources close to the development told TOI that the de cision looks driven by `certain vested interests' and could potentially dent massive efforts undertaken to protect Asiatic lions. As per latest census, there are around 523 lions in Gir, half of which live on the sanctuary's fringes or outside.
The MoEF had notified the ESZ on its website as a preliminary notification but TOI has learnt that in the recently held meetings of ministers and forest department officers, a modified proposal was made to shrink the ESZ size.
"The drastic reduction in ESZ cover is beyond any reasoning and it has completely ignored the importance of Gir as the last refuge of Asiatic lions. The new proposal is being prepared under pressure of certain vested interests," a senior IFS officer in Gandhinagar told TOI.
State's forest and environment minister Ganpat Vasava confirmed the ESZ has been reduced. "After the general proposal was sent earlier, we consulted with farmers and residents.Considering their development needs, we have proposed reducing the ESZ area."
When asked if the government has acted under political compulsion, Vasava said, "We have to strike the right balance.We have considered the interest of man and animal both." Kuldeep Goelhttp://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Safety-net-around-Asiatic-lions-set-to-shrink/articleshow/55825195.cms