Panel allows reduction of safe zone around Gir
THE TIMES OF INDIA
AHMEDABAD: The expert committee has approved the shrinking of the Eco Sensitive Zone around the Gir sanctuary. The committee rejected the Gujarat government's proposal to eliminate the ESZ boundary altogether, and increased the boundary to 0.5 km.
While sending the proposal, the government cited the proceedings of a meeting convened in February which was attended by politicians and local leaders. The government said that comments received from various stakeholders and the public were discussed in the meeting. The government said that most of the reservations expressed during consultations pertained to permissions sought from the monitoring committee even for basic requirements of villages — such as the construction of houses, schools, colleges, hospitals, wells, and roads in the ESZ area.
Government officials justified their proposal by saying that a proper mechanism was in place for the development or establishment of hotels, resorts, and farmhouses. In the proposal, the government stated that the riverbed, which is frequented by lions, could be placed under the ESZ up to a distance of 9.4km or up to the point at which lion movement has been observed.
However, sources said that the committee was not informed that the ESZ, which was to extend to 500 metres from the banks of the river, had been reduced to only the riverbed. The sources pointed out that illegal miners seem to have got a free hand in digging near the Gir sanctuary, the Asiatic lions' last abode. Currently, 523 lions are distributed across 22,000 sq km.
The response to an RTI query revealed that between April 2016 and February 2017, the geology and mining department had lodged 22 FIRs for illegal mining in the vicinity of the sanctuary. "The estimated value of illegal mining in these 22 cases was pegged at Rs 11.29 crore," said an official.