Madhya Pradesh has begun the process of shifting two villages out of the Kuno Palpur sanctuary to make more space for Asiatic lions, even as the Supreme Court rejected a curative petition filed by the Gujarat government as a last ditch attempt to stop the proposed translocation.
The project to create an alternate home for the Asiatic lion — currently indigenous to the Gir forest in Gujarat — has been in process for nearly two decades but has been stonewalled by the Gujarat government and NGOs who have been posing several legal hurdles. The MP government, meanwhile, between 1998 and 2003, has shifted 1,543 families from 24 villages out of the park.
MP Forest Minister Gaurishankar Shejwar said that to save time Madhya Pradesh is willing to spend the money required to shift residents of Bagcha and Jahangarh villages out of its own pocket and seek reimbursement later. Earlier the state had said it would ask the Centre to provide the Rs 59 crore required for the new relocation.
In April 2013, the Supreme Court had rejected petitions opposing the translocation of the lions and issued directions to form an expert committee to look into the basic requirements in tune with the IUCN guidelines. The committee has recommended that in addition to the 24 villages already relocated from the park in Sheopur district, two more villages be cleared to make the habitat more suitable for the lions.
After the April 15 verdict, the apex court junked a review petition in October, and the curative petition earlier this week. “We did not even receive a notice in response to the curative petition,’’ PCCF (Wildlife) Narendra Kumar said.
Given Gujarat’s resistence to the translocation, MP is keeping its fingers crossed, saying the matter is in the hands of the Centre.