The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has finally cleared the Girnar ropeway project in Junagadh district. The project has been meandering for the past 33 years.
“The MoEF&CC gave the environment clearance to the proposed Girnar ropeway project on September 9. With this, all Central government clearances for the proposed project, which is very important for Junagadh district in particular and Saurashtra region in general, have been obtained. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone of the project in 2007. I made a representation to him after he became the PM. He took keen interest, paving the way for the green clearance,” Rajesh Chudasama, MP of Junagadh, said.
The BJP MP said it was now the responsibility of the Gujarat government to complete the project at earliest. Junagadh Collector Rahul Gupta said: “Though we have not received any formal communiqué as yet, informally we have been informed that the project has been granted the green clearance.” Mount Girnar, which is 3,400 feet above the sea level, is a major pilgrim site in Saurashtra. The mountain has temple of Amba, temples of Jain tirthankars and the shrine of Lord Duttatreya.
Hundreds of pilgrims climb the mountain everyday for darshan and a rush is witnessed during Maha Shivratri fair and Parikrama (or a pilgrim round the Mount Girnar) in winter. The flow of pilgrims, however, is limited as they have to climb 9,999 steps to reach the summit. The proposed ropeway will lift people from the foothill to the temple of Amba.
The Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited (TCGL) had proposed to develop the ropeway for Mount Girnar in Junagadh way back in 1983. The project proposal estimated diversion of 9.1 hectare forest land for the project. After lengthy discussions and deliberations, the state government decided to divert 7.29 hectare forest land for the project in 1994 and the Central government gave a green signal the following year . The state government allotted an equal-measuring plot in Toraniya village for compensatory afforestation.
However, the project was stalled after those hauling pilgrims up to the top of Mount Girnar in palanquins moved the Gujarat High Court, claiming
the ropeway would affect their livelihood. The court dismissed the petition after Usha Breco Limited, the company that was awarded the contract for the project agreed to give alternative livelihood options to the palanquin-bearers. Nonetheless, some objections were raised by green activists and the work was stopped in 1999.
But after addressing those issues, the work resumed in 2002. Land acquisition for the project was completed in 2007 and Narendra Modi, then CM, laid foundation stone of the ropeway project in 2007. But since Mount Girnar is part of Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary, wildlife and environment clearances were required. While the wildlife clearance was granted in 2011, the environment clearance took another five years.