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To keep its pride intact, Gujarat could file review petition in SC

                                                                                            Hinduatan Times, New Delhi, 16th April, 2013

The BJP-run Gujarat government, which opposes sharing the lions of the state, is reportedly contemplating filing a review petition with the Supreme Court against its order to shift some animals to Madhya Pradesh, where too the saffron party is in power.

FILE PHOTO “We are yet to get the judgment on the issue. We will study it and explore legal options available to us. Our considered (view) has been that Gir lions would not adapt to climatic conditions anywhere,” principal secretary (environment and forest) HD Dash told HT.

“Habitat formation takes centuries and the Gir forest has emerged as the preferred habitat for lions over centuries ...”

A senior official said: “There is no epidemic threat to the lions in Gir, which is the most suitable geography where they have thrived. Secondly, one lion needs 50 sq km and the Kuno area, developed by Madhya Pradesh, has only 300 sq km for the lions, so what will happen if its population increases and that area is encircled by a tiger habitat.”

“In the past 50 years, there has been only one incident of poaching in Gir while in Madhya Pradesh, the tiger population has dwindled because of poaching,” he added.
Chief minister Narendra Modi had said in a Planning Commission meeting in 2009: “Lions are the pride of Gujarat. All other states have received money for wildlife conservation; we haven’t received a penny for lions.”

A young student of biology from Delhi University, Fayaz Khudsar, was part of a study trip to Kuno Palpur in 1999, when he was told that the huge grassland would soon be second home for Asiatic lions from Gujarat. For the next seven years, he visited the landscape several times but the ambitious project had got stuck with Narendra Modi’s Gujarati pride. In 2006, Khudsar decided to file a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking specific directions to the Gujarat government for the saving India’s unique wildlife heritage.

Seven years later, the apex court on Monday concurred with Khudsar’s view and directed the Gujarat government to part with lions from Gir in a phased manner for Kuno Palpur. “It was not a fight against a state government. I just wanted long term survival for lions so that our future generations can also see them,” he told HT after attending the hearing in the Supreme Court. “I am glad that the SC had delivered a historic judgment and Gujarat’s pride will get a second home in MP”.

Fayaz believes he has not done anything extra-ordinary and said that he was just paid back his debt to Kuno and its unique grassland. “My association with Kuno dates back to 1999 and I did my doctorate based on research on biodiversity and prey base there with special focus on Asiatic lions,” he said.

The Delhi-based wildlife biologist can claim credit for scrapping of the ecologically fragile cheetah project backed by environment ministry. It was on his application that the court constituted an independent expert committee to scientifically examine the Cheetah project. Based on the report, the court described the project as “illegal”.

He describes the court judgment as landmark as it also speaks about providing new homes for many other endangered species.