NEW DELHI: The environment ministry on Monday gave its clearance for the construction of a ropeway in the Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat, the only home to Asiatic lions, despite objections that it could lead to the extinction of Girnari vultures, a critically endangered species.
The ministry accorded the clearance to the ropeway from Bhavnath Taleti to Ambaji temple within the sanctuary in Junagarh district after imposing six conditions.
“I have received numerous representations against the ropeway on environmental grounds, primarily adverse impact on vultures. I have seen for myself the strong reasons to build the ropeway. It would minimise man-animal conflict in the Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary,” the environment minister Mr Jairam Ramesh said.
“It would also provide a convenient way of transporting thousands of pilgrims daily to the holy spot on Mount Girnar. It would also put an end to socially unacceptable modes of transportation (the dolis) that are being used at present,” he said.
The ropeway project on Mount Girnar in Junagarh has been pending since 1995.
The clearance from the ministry was sought in 2008 after the Girnar reserve forest — covering around 180 sq km area including Mount Girnar — was declared Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary.
According to environmentalists, the project would harm the nests of vultures that roost on the mountain crannies.
The conditions include — a study to consider alternate alignment of the ropeway project, increasing height of some of the towers, putting cameras to monitor movement of vultures, construction of cafeteria for vultures, imposition of a cess of ` 5 per ticket or 2 per cent of the ticket turnover to carry out conservation related activities, and setting up a technical committee to monitor implementation of these conditions.
Mr Ramesh, however, said the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife will take a final decision based on the report submitted by the Gujarat government.
A technical group of the NBWL standing committee, which visited the site in December last year, has advised against the construction of a ropeway, saying it could lead to local extinction of the ‘Girnari Giddh’, a critically endangered species listed in Schedule I under the Wildlife Protection Act.
Mr Ramesh visited the sanctuary, home to 20-25 Asiatic lions and the site of the proposed ropeway, last month.
“The Girnari Giddh population that is going to be affected by the ropeway project is between 20-25 per cent of the total population of long-billed vultures in Gujarat, but less than 10 per cent of the population of vultures in the state,” he said.