Ramesh approves ropeway project in Gir sanctuary

New Delhi, Feb 7 (PTI) Setting aside objections fromgreen activists, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh todaygranted "in-principle" approval for a ropeway project inGirnar wildlife sanctuary, famous for its lions.

The Girnar Ropeway project was hanging fire sinceSeptember 1995 and was facing opposition fromenvironmentalists who apprehended adverse impact on thehabitat of endangered vultures. It was pending with theEnvironment Ministry for over a year.

The project would "minimise man-animal conflict" inthe sanctuary and it would also provide a "convenient way oftransporting" thousands of pilgrims daily to the holy spots onMount Girnar, Ramesh said while giving in-principle nod to theropeway that will connect Bhavnath Taleti and Ambaji temple inJunagarh district.

"It would also put an end to socially unacceptablemodes of transportation (the dolis) that are being usedpresently," Ramesh, who visited the site on January 27, saidbut added that the clearance was subject to six specificconditions.

Dismissing concerns of environmentalists, Ramesh said,"I have seen for myself the strong reasons to build theropeway.

"The Girnari Giddh (vulture) population that is goingto be affected by the ropeway project is between 20 to 25percent of the total population of long-billed vultures inGujarat but less than 10 per cent of the population ofvultures in the state," the Minister said.

The six conditions include minimum disturbance forlong-billed vulture i e Girnari Giddh habitat, cafeteria forvultures, increase in height of two towers along the ropewayand cess on ticket turn-over revenue for conservation relatedactivities.

The Ministry, in its conditions, has asked the GujaratGovernment to submit a report within two months about itsstudy to consider alternate alignment of the ropeway project,preferably along the Datter /Bhesan side with a view to ensurethat it does not cut across the prime vulture habitat andminimises disturbance to the nesting, roosting and rangingsites of long-billed vultures and other wildlife species.

According to the conditions, a camera of highresolution will be placed on the ninth tower to monitormovement of vultures, a cafeteria for vultures will beconstructed at an appropriate location and a technicalmonitoring group will be set up to advice on safety protocolsand to monitor the implementation of the conditions.

It is only after the declaration of the Girnar ReserveForest as the Grinar Wildlife Sanctuary in May 2008, thatCentral Government approval has been necessitated.

A population of 20-25 lions is now resident in theGirnar Wildlife Sanctuary which covers about 180 sq kms. PTITGB

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