Saturday, July 4, 2009

Will CM gift forest land to industry?

Will CM gift forest land to industry?
DNA By Kapil Dave
In a major setback to decades of forest and wildlife conservation efforts in Gujarat, the state government may decide today to de-notify hundreds of hectares of forest land in four sanctuary areas of Gujarat. If chief minister Narendra Modi approves the Gujarat Wildlife Board's agenda, there will be a severe threat of industrial and human activity in Gujarat's four prime forest areas - the Wild Ass Sanctuary in the Little Rann of Kutch, Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Velavadar Black Buck Sanctuary and Narayan Sarovar Bird Sanctuary.

Highly placed sources told DNA on Friday that influential industrial houses are likely to have their way if the forest department and the Board don't vehemently oppose the move. Highly placed sources expressed profound sorrow about the fact that "Gujarat's wildlife is facing major problems like poaching and increased human and industrial activity, but the Board is pressing for discussion on 11 issues, of which a majority are proposals of industries to take away forest land."

The board has proposed diversion of 89.74 hectare land in the Wild Ass Sanctuary for the power transmission line of Adani Power Ltd and 241.59 hectare land for Power Grid Corporation's transmission lines. It has also proposed diversion of 7.28 hectare land for Usha Breco Ltd for ropeway construction in Girnar Sanctuary; 4.40 hectare land from Velavadar black buck Sanctuary for Gujarat State Road Development Corporation (GSRDC) for construction of a six-lane Sarkhej-Vataman-Bhavnagar central spine road; 0.315 ha land diversion for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd for laying of fibre optic lines in Balaram-Ambaji Sanctuary, 0.45 ha land diversion for Vodafone Gujarat Limited for laying of fibre optics in Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary and 0.45 ha land diversion for Reliance Communication Gujarat Ltd in Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary.

Ironically, the state government on Friday admitted in the assembly that because of increasingly serious man-animal conflict in Gir and Dangs forests, 23 people had lost their lives in the last two years. It also admitted during the ongoing assembly session to charges of misuse of land allotted in Gir.Highly placed sources in the government said, "The State Wildlife Board will hold a meeting, to be chaired by chief minister Narendra Modi, on July 4 at the Secretariat. The main agenda of the meeting is to give land in protected sanctuaries to various private companies for commercial use." The other items on the agenda include a presentation on wildlife, formation of Leo-genetic lab for Gir lions, modern communication facilities for the management and protection of the animals in Gir and erecting of walls on the two sides of the road in Gir sanctuary.

However, the forest department prefers to remain quiet about the move to de-notify the forest land which it is supposed to protect! Principal chief conservator of forests ML Sharma was not reachable, while PCCF (wildlife) Pradeep Khanna refused to comment