As the Gujarat chief minister in 2009, Narendra Modi had entered into a public spat with then environment minister Jairam Ramesh. The issue: Relocation of lions from Gir wildlife sanctuary state to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh.
Modi had then opposed the relocation, saying he would not part with “Gujarat’s pride”. Now, as Prime Minister, Modi would be asked to reconsider his view in ‘larger national interest’.
Wildlife activists and the environment ministry have argued for the relocation of the Asiatic lions to MP since only a single habitat for these big cats is considered dangerous, especially because of inbreeding threat and Gir’s location in a seismic zone.
“The Prime Minister will take a call on the issue,” a senior environment ministry official said. Modi will have to decide on the matter before the next meeting of the National Board for Wildlife.
In August 2013, the Supreme Court had sided with the experts who said it was better for the lions’ future if some of them could be relocated. On the court’s directions, the environment ministry constituted a committee, which directed the MP government to expand the Kuno Palpur wildlife area for relocation of the lions.
The MP government this week submitted a proposal of Rs. 79 crore for the rehabilitation of two more villages. This was the first communication from the state forest department to the ministry after the Modi-led government took charge at the Centre.