Gujarat opposes Centre’s plan to relocate lions
23 Apr 2009, 0342 hrs IST, TNN
NEW DELHI: Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh may be ruled by the BJP, but the Narendra Modi government on Wednesday raised serious objections in the Supreme Court to the Centre’s ambitious proposal to relocate a few lions from the Gir forest to the MP jungles.
The plan, devised to save lions from a disaster that could wipe them all in one go since they are concentrated in one place, involved relocating five of them from Gir to a 300 sq km forest at Kunopalpur in Sheopur district of MP, amicus curiae Raj Panjwani informed a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices L S Panta and P Sathasivam.
He said residents of as many as 24 villages falling within the identified area were relocated in 2003, but the plan mooted by Wildlife Institute of India and approved by National Board for Wildlife was still hanging fire.
Appearing for Gujarat, senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi said the state’s opposition to the plan is based on solid environmental grounds. He said even the wildlife experts feel that lions could not be relocated to experimental surroundings already habited by tigers. “You cannot mix cheese with chalk,” he said.
He said the number of Asiatic lions was increasing whereas the number of tigers in the MP forests was steadily decreasing. “The number of poachers caught in Gir forest are all from MP,” he said hinting at the lack of anti-poaching measures in MP.
Panjwani said Gir has more than 350 lions as against its holding capacity of around 270 and no harm would come if five lions were relocated to MP.
However, the Bench asked the Gujarat government to place the new objections it had raised before the National Board for Wildlife, which would take a fresh decision on the contentious issue.
The study for the relocation of some of the Asiatic lions to MP took into account the disaster at Seringeti forest in Africa where a disease, canine distemper, wiped out 80% of the lion population within a short span.