Activist warns of commercial exploitation, increasing man-animal conflicts
The state government has decided to limit the Gir Sanctuary area, deleting 11 villages on its periphery and converting them to revenue land. This comes in the wake of a previous effort to create an extended Gir by increasing the boundaries to accommodate the increasing lion population.
Officials said the state government has in principle approved a proposal for the ‘Rationalisation of Boundaries in Gir Sanctuary'. This proposal essentially means 1939.38 hectares of forest settlement villages will be converted to revenue land, while the reserve forest area to be declared as sanctuary will be limited at 2141.40 hectares.
There are 14 forest settlements in the sanctuary and 11 of these villages are located on the periphery. The other three villages are located inside the sanctuary. The proposal aims to convert the 11 villages on the periphery to revenue villages and delete the areas from the sanctuary limits.
The rationale behind the move is that these areas are under cultivation and no negative impact on the habitat is expected as a result of their deletion as they are not available to wildlife in any way.
"There are forest areas that are contiguous to the sanctuary. These may be added to the sanctuary for efficient wildlife conservation and provision of additional suitable habitat to wildlife," said P M Christian, Deputy Secretary, Forest and Wildlife Department.
He added: "The proposal is pending with the Government of India so its status is not known. The proposal is yet to get a final clearance."
Mahesh Pandya, an environment activist said the proposal of converting villages on the sanctuary periphery to revenue land will promote faster conversion of farm land to non-agriculture ones and promote commercial construction of hotels and the like.
"This will limit the space for wildlife and create major obstacle and increase man-animal conflicts. The Forest Department's logic that the areas are under cultivation and not used by animals for habitat is misleading. Lions and other animals have been restricted by villagers in the areas and fatal incidents have also been noticed in the past. Instances of lions falling in farm wells have also been reported which shows that lions and other animals can use the land if allowed."