Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government has dusted off a 2006 plan to create a miniature version of South Africa's Kruger National Park, whose lion safari draws tourists like a magnet all year round.
Significantly, the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party dispensation has chosen a 50- hectare tract of land in Fisher Forest that lies in Mulayam Singh Yadav's citadel of Etawah. This would be the first ever such project in the state.
Government sources revealed that apart from serving as an attraction for backpackers, the safari will house a lion breeding centre of international standards to augment the captive population of the magnificent Asiatic lion in the country, the Daily Mail reported.
But wildlife experts expressed doubts about the viability of the UP government's ambitious plan.
Conservationist Ananda Banerjee observed: "The first hurdle for the UP government would be procuring lions from its counterpart in Gujarat. The latter has submitted in the Supreme Court that it will not hand over lions to anyone. It refused the Madhya Pradesh government's request in this regard."
Nearly 150 hectares of land in Fisher Forest on Etawah-Gwalior highway, close to the National Chambal Sanctuary and ravines of the Yamuna had been acquired in 2005 during the Mulayam regime and was notified as a Lion Safari. Named after Fisher, collector of Etawah in 1888, the forest lies about 10 km from the Etawah district headquarters. Of the total cost of Rs 5.6 crore, Rs 1.04 crore had been allotted for the safari in 2005.
The project, however, was derailed after Mulayam's exit in 2007 after losing to the BSP.
The land for the project has already been identified in the Fisher Forest area of Etawah. The project would take about two years to complete after the CZA grants approval.
The state government recently sent a request to the Gujarat government asking for a lion and four lionesses needed for natural breeding. The Gir National Park in Junagadh (Gujarat) is the only natural habitat of pure Asian lions in Asia. When the original project had been sent to the CZA in 2005, it had granted approval on the condition that a lion breeding centre be set up as part of the safari.