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The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) that had raised objection over the state government’s proposal of starting fenced Ambardi lion safari park for tourists at Gir National Park at Dhari in Amreli district. The PIL had claimed that this safari will damage the ecosystem of the forest.
A division bench led by chief justice R Subhash Reddy dismissed the petition filed by city-based activist Biren Pandya, noting that the government complied with all the conditions and secured required permissions. The proposal for the safari was made in 2005, while the central government gave recognition and in-principle approval in 2008.
The court said that the petitioner approached the court after much delay and by then physical infrastructure like fencing had already been done.
The petitioner argued that permission for this park was pending for 10 years and initially the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) didn’t give permission for the park, but on May 18 this year the central government reconstituted the CZA and “suddenly without any inspection (which is mandatory) final permission was granted by the technical committee on June 5”.
The petitioner claimed that establishing Ambardi Safari Park in Dhari on reserved forest land was in violation of principles of wildlife conservation. The PIL claimed that spread in 400 ha, Ambardi Reserve Forest area used to be heaven for herbivores and carnivores, including lions, and it had been fenced in the last few years to be converted into the safari park. It claimed that 18 lions have already been shifted and entire satellite population of lions has been “wiped out”.
The park aims to take the tourist load off the existing Gir National Park. It will have three zoo-bred big cats (two lionesses and a lion) for public viewing in the forest environment.
As per, the latest census by the state forest department, Gujarat is home to 523 Asiatic lions in the Gir forest and other areas in Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts.