When will Asiatic lions roar in Palpur-Kuno, asks Congress
THE TIMES OF INDIA
"Why are Asiatic lions still not being brought to Palpur-Kunoand what has been the communication by the state government to bring them here?" Congress MLA from Lahar seat Dr Govind Singh asked during the Question Hour.
In reply, minister for forests Dr Gauri Shankar Shejwar told the House, "The Madhya Pradesh government is not the hindrance to bringing Gir lions to Palpur-Kuno."
Even after evacuating 344 sq km area for Palpur-Kuno sanctuary and an additional 900 sq km of buffer zone, the Gujarat government is still not prepared to part with its Asiatic lions. Incidentally, both the states are BJP-ruled.
The question of relocation of lions had come from senior Congress MLA from Vijaypur constituency Ram Niwas Rawat but since the latter was absent, Singh pursued the query on his behalf.
The Congress argued that in December last year, a Supreme Court-constituted committee and the Madhya Pradesh government held a meeting, after which the panel found the environment at Palpur-Kuno sanctuary fit for the Asiatic lions.
The MLA alleged that people had to be shifted while their livelihood suffered after agricultural land was acquired for the sanctuary. "People lost their homes and their agricultural land was gone. So, what is the reason that the Gir lions are still not coming to the state?" Singh asked.
Shejwar contended that the matter lies with the Union government and the apex court-appointed committee. "We are just complying with the orders," the minister said.
Forest department officials said that only political will is required for translocating the Gujarat lions. "Madhya Pradesh has addressed all concerns raised for over a decade by Gujarat officials with regard to the issue," a senior forest department official said.
The state wants at least two lion prides, which means a total of around 12 lions, including cubs. Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Jitendra Agrawal said that the state is continuing its efforts to get the big cats, but the matter appears to be in cold storage as of now. "We have addressed all their queries," he said.
A meeting of chief wildlife wardens of all states was held in New Delhi on February 15-16. This is where Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat wildlife wardens were to discuss the translocation. However, Gujarat officials did not turn up at the meet and at present, there is no communication between the two states, sources in the forest department said.
"We have given enough time to the Gujarat government. Despite a standing order from the Supreme Court, they are reluctant. Gujarat will have to say 'yes' or 'no' this time so that we can do the needful," said a wildlife officer.