Despite SC order, no shifting of lions outside Gujarat in Centre’s 25-year plan

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NINE YEARS after the Supreme Court docket gave it a six-month deadline for shifting lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh, and 4 years after it assured the apex court docket that the order can be carried out, the Centre has drafted a 25-year roadmap for Venture Lion with no provision for any such translocation.

To be introduced on August 10, World Lion Day, sources within the Setting Ministry and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) mentioned that the Venture Lion roadmap will as an alternative deal with “assisted pure dispersal throughout Saurashtra” — and probably to Rajasthan by the point India celebrates 100 years of Independence in 2047.

Satya Prakash Yadav, who led the drafting of the roadmap as extra director basic (Forest) within the Setting Ministry and director in Dehradun-based WII, declined to answer a question from The Indian Specific on whether or not the roadmap would quantity to contempt of court docket.

Shyamal Tikadar, chief wildlife warden of Gujarat, mentioned he would “handle queries solely after the discharge” of the plan.

The preliminary proposal of September 2020 below Venture Lion, which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 15 that 12 months, recognized seven websites, together with three every in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, for relocation.

By August 2021, information present, Gujarat ready a contemporary 10-year roadmap with a finances of Rs 2,000 crore to populate Barda wildlife sanctuary and some different areas, with no provision for shifting lions exterior the state. This plan has been modified at WII right into a 25-year roadmap to facilitate pure dispersal of lions and set up new lion populations inside Gujarat.

In a written reply to a query within the Lok Sabha on Monday, MoS Setting Ashwini Kumar Choubey restricted the scope of assessing the suitability of a brand new habitat for lions to potential websites in Gujarat.

The 25-year roadmap, say sources, envisages a two-pronged dispersal technique for the supply inhabitants in Gir nationwide park throughout Saurashtra: north-west in direction of Barda wildlife sanctuary, the place a brand new inhabitants can be hemmed in by the ocean; and north-east past Rajkot, skirting the Rann of Kutch, and following the Banas river probably into Rajasthan.

“It’s wishful at this stage however we hope that’s how the assisted pure dispersal ought to occur within the subsequent 10-25 years. The preliminary problem is to make the lion cross the Rajkot-Porbandar and Ahmedabad-Rajkot highways by guiding them with feeds to culverts, and many others,” mentioned an official aware about the plan.

“No one will cease the lions in the event that they wish to enter Madhya Pradesh” after they attain Rajasthan, the official mentioned.

Bhopal-based environmentalist Ajay Dubey, who had filed a contempt petition within the case, mentioned: “It’s unprecedented how a time-bound Supreme Court docket order is undermined for 9 years even after an assurance in 2018 primarily based on which my petition was discharged.”

He alleged that one other plan to settle cheetahs on the Kuno park in Madhya Pradesh, when there have been different accessible websites, was “solely to scuttle the lion plan”. “Now, African cheetahs are being airlifted whereas our lions are anticipated to stroll all the way in which to MP through Rajasthan,” he mentioned.

The necessity for establishing a lion inhabitants exterior Gujarat as an “insurance coverage” towards mass-casualty attributable to epidemics or pure calamities was recognised far again in 1993 by WII. Subsequent research at three potential websites inside the historic vary of the Asiatic lion recognized Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh to be probably the most appropriate for reintroducing the species.

Following the relocation of 24 villages from Kuno and the affirmation of an ample prey base, the Centre in 2004 wrote to Gujarat for releasing lions. As Gujarat dragged its toes, the difficulty reached the Supreme Court docket which, in April 2013, set a six-month deadline and constituted an skilled committee for the challenge.

The apex court docket’s order mentioned: “The cardinal difficulty isn’t whether or not the Asiatic lion is a ‘member of the family’ or the pleasure of a State however the preservation of an endangered species for which we now have to use the species greatest curiosity commonplace.”

Gujarat filed a evaluation petition, adopted by a healing petition, which have been dismissed in October 2013 and August 2014, respectively. Then, the state authorities insisted on finishing over 30 research earlier than translocating lions.

The extended delay led to Dubey’s contempt petition which was discharged after the Setting Ministry assured that it will maintain a gathering to expedite the challenge. Nothing moved till the plan to introduce African cheetahs in Kuno was revived in January 2020.

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