Saturday, June 13, 2009

Junagadh City Information – Girnar Mountain Parvat Ropeway Project

Will Girnar ropeway hit vulture breeding sites?

The proposed ropeway to the religious shrine atop Mount Girnar has outraged environmentalists who believe that the decision to promote Junagadh tourism will come at a huge cost to endangered wildlife such as Asiatic lions and vultures.

However, the forest department, expressing equal concern for the fauna's well-being, is confident that the ropeway will not disturb the wildlife in the region. If anything, the department argues, it will only ease the pressure on the wildlife created by visiting devotees who currently pass through the jungle to reach the holy shrine atop Girnar.

Naturalist Manish Vaidya, who had filed a petition in Gujarat High Court contesting the decision to build a ropeway nearly a decade back, had contended that the ropeway would disturb the lion and vulture habitat. Last month, the wildlife board cleared the project, which has now been sent to the Union ministry of environment and forests for approval. In a letter written to state foresters, environmentalists from the region said the ropeway project would bring more crowds to the mountains for picnics. "The picnicker will bring along plastic pouches and bottles and most probably throw them around here. Strong winds will then take the plastic to the forest area," they said.

"If the ropeway passes through the trees housing vulture nests, it will be a disaster. According to the last census, 79 vultures were counted in the region. Isn't it alarming enough that the vulture population has reduced to half of the 2005 in the 2007 estimate?" Vaidya said.

Another environmentalist from the region, closely involved in the vulture counting process along with the forest department, said, "We had noticed a spectacular breeding colony of long billed species of vultures on Mount Girnar. If the ropeway passes through their colonies, the vultures would certainly be disturbed," he said. The foresters, however, claim that they are conscious of the vulture breeding colony there and a detailed study conducted long back when the ropeway was first proposed says vulture colonies will not be affected.

"The ropeway will also ease the pressure on the lions, as thousands of devotees spending five-six hours climbing through the forest to the shrine cannot be controlled right now," principal chief conservator of forest Pradip Khanna said. In fact, he pointed out that Gujarat was perhaps the only state in India that has taken intensive projects for vulture conservation. Information supplied by the forest department under the Right to Information Act had revealed that Rs84 lakh has been spent by the state over the past five years through grants received by state and central government.

"A huge chunk of this has been spent on the vulture breeding centre in Junagadh through the Sakkarbaug Zoo," Khanna added.

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