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Whose lion is it anyway? 23 years into plan, not one Gir lion shifted to MP

Shailendra Tiwari | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:47 IST

On paper, the process of bringing Asiatic lions from the Gir forest in Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh has been continuing for 23 years now. But, till date, not a single lion has been shifted.

This is despite the fact that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is the nodal agency for this transfer.

According to the Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Anil Madhav Dave, the MP government has made no such request. The state government, on its part, claims the latest reminder for the transfer of lions was sent as late as May 2016.

Replying to a query, Dave had recently told Parliament that the Madhya Pradesh government had never asked for lions in the first place. However, it is important to note that Dave's own ministry had started the process of shifting lions to the state.

History of the plan

The MoEF had started looking for a new abode for the lions of Gir in 1993. Documents accessed by Patrika prove that the ministry wanted to shift some of the lions from Gir to the Kuno wildlife sanctuary in MP.

According to these documents, the Wild Life Institute of India had initiated a detailed research on the future of the Gir lions in 1986. The purpose of this study was to suggest measures for long-term conservation of the lions.

The idea of shifting Asiatic lions from their only abode in the Gir forest to MP emanated from this research.

In October 1993, the findings of the research were made public in Vadodara. It suggested three new locations for the lions, namely the Darrah-Jawahar Sagar and Sitamata sanctuaries in Rajasthan, and MP's Kuno wildlife reserve.

Two sanctuaries in Rajasthan and one in MP were shortlisted. MP's Kuno was then finalised

An expert committee, comprising famous scientists Ravi Chellam and Justus Joshua, among others, studied the climate of these three places and found Kuno to be the most appropriate habitat for the lions.

On 24 July 1996, the then-Madhya Pradesh forest secretary wrote a letter to the MoEF, asking to notify the Kuno sanctuary area as a habitat for lions. The Central government took four years to give its nod. A 20-year work plan was chalked out for the relocation of the lions.

As per the work plan, all the technical issues like area notification were to be sorted out in the time period between 1995-2000. The actual shifting of the lions, their research and monitoring were to take place from the year 2000 to 2005.

On 10 March 2004, the Central government constituted a high-power committee to complete this task in a time bound manner.

Yet, the relocation has not even begun, as of now.

"The ministry, which is acting as a nodal agency in this matter, is now asking who has asked for the lions. It is laughable," says social activist Ajay Dubey.

Ravi Shrivastava, Madhya Pradesh's Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wild Life), sent a reminder to the Union Ministry on 12 May 12.

Pointing out that 10 Asiatic lions had died in the Gir forest in July 2015 because of floods, the PCCF stressed on the urgent need to shift the lions to Madhya Pradesh.

The timeline

1986: The Wild Life Institute of India begins its research on the life and future of the Gir lions.

1993: Consensus emerges on finding an alternative habitat for lions. Two sanctuaries in Rajasthan and one in MP are shortlisted, of which MP's Kuno is finalised as the alternate location.

1995: Madhya Pradesh asks the Centre for the notification of the Kuno sanctuary as a lion habitat.

1996: The MP government sends its proposal to the Central government.

2000: The Central government notifies the Kuno sanctuary as a lion habitat

2004: The Union government forms a high-power committee for the monitoring of the relocation process.

2005: The deadline for relocation of lions passes.

2016: Union Minister of State MoEF Anil Madhav Dave says in Parliament that the MP govt never asked for the lions in the first place.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 13 August 2016, 9:19 IST
 
Shailendra Tiwari @shailendra_mona

State Bureau chief at Patrika, Madhya Pradesh

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