June 21, 2019 6:24:21 pm
Shifting rail tracks out of the Gir forest and shutting down all stone quarries located around it are some of the steps suggested to save lions in a report submitted to the Gujarat High Court Thursday. The Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, part of the forest spread across several Gujarat districts, is the last abode of Asiatic lions in the world.
The steps were suggested in the report submitted to the division bench of Justices S R Brahmbhatt and A P Thaker by senior advocate Hemang Shah, who was appointed amicus curiae in the matter by the HC last year when it admitted a PIL over the issue of death of Gir lions. After taking into consideration the findings of the report, the bench asked the state government to file its reply and posted the matter for further hearing on July 11.
In his report, Shah pointed out that lions are being run over by trains which ply through the forest area. He said at least 20 goods trains pass through the forest area and most of them run during night, a time when lions come out for hunting and try to cross the tracks. Shah stated that a suggestion, made earlier by a lawyer, to construct elevated corridor for trains inside the forest, is not feasible.
Construction of such a structure would create noise and air pollution and eventually “drive lions out of the forest”, the amicus curiae noted in his report. “The only option is to shift the railway tracks out of the forest area and beyond the 10 km zone. These railway tracks are used for transporting containers to Pipavav Port (in Amreli district). “Thus, commercial activity needs to take a back seat while ensuring complete protection of lions,” the report said.
He suggested that trains on this route must be stopped during the night for the safety of lions. Shah pointed out that though the Railway authorities had issued instructions to regulate the speed of the trains, they are still plying “at more than 60 km an hour”.
Shah also suggested putting GPS-based radio collars on lions to keep a watch on their movements and alert the field staff whenever they come close to the tracks. Expressing concern over the mining activity near Mitiyala Wildlife Sanctuary of the Gir forest, Shah said stone quarries are causing water and air pollution.
He said the owners of these quarries had not constructed protection walls to prevent lions from falling into deep pits dug up inside their premises. “It is quite surprising as to how these entities have ‘managed’ to secure permissions and approvals. All such stone quarry sites should be closed down with immediate effect, irrespective of their permissions and approvals. All such approvals should be cancelled with immediate effect” the report said.
According to the 2015 census, there were 523 lions in the Gir forest.
The Gujarat government had last year claimed that their number had gone over 600.