The Girnair Ropeway project stuck for over 15 years got environment sanction on Monday with Jairam Ramesh overruling the stiff objections from green activists regarding future of endangered long billed vultures.
The ropeway connects Bhavnath Taleti and Ambaji temple in Girnair Lion Sanctuary in Junagarh district of Gujarat and Ramesh said that it would minimize man-animal conflict and also provide viable transportation options.
"I have my serious concerns. We have already lost 99% of vulture population in India. And, I understand that this is the only viable vulture population in Gujarat," said Prerna Singh Bindra, member of the Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife, which had objected to the project at its last meeting in January.
Ramesh had, however, decided that he would visit the project site and take a decision. "He (the minister) never told us that he was giving approval to the project," said another board member, requesting anonymity. "Our impression was that he will discuss his observations with us before taking the final call."
Ramesh said that six specific conditions have been imposed to protect local wildlife, including studying possibility of an alternative alignment, increasing the height of the towers to minimize impact of vultures and wildlife conservation cess on the ticket.
"The Girnari Giddh (vulture) population that is going to be affected by the ropeway project is between 20 to 25% of the total population of long-billed vultures in Gujarat but less than 10% of the population of vultures in the state," the minister said. There are more than one species of vultures in Gujarat.
Socially, Ramesh believes the project will end put an end to socially unacceptable modes of transportation (the dolis) that are being used presently.