While the state government is struggling to find homes in the wild for Lakshmi and Anarkali, the two captive elephants in Byculla Zoo, wildlife activists claim that many proposals to construct elephant sanctuaries in Maharashtra are gathering dust in Mantralaya.
Wildlife activist Mike Pandey had submitted a proposal for an Elephant Rescue Centre and Sanctuary near the Tilari Dam in Kolhapur two years ago. But the project, which aims to accommodate 30 elephants, is still on paper.
“We asked the government for the land and Rs 9 lakh for a preliminary satellite survey,” said Pandey. Despite initial approvals from Babanrao Pachpute, the then forest minister, the project has not moved beyond the drawing board.
According to their proposal, the group also roped in actor John Abraham and a set up a mechanism to raise up to Rs. 100 crores for the project.
“But then the minister changed and despite several follow ups the project is stuck,” added Pandey. The plan was to develop the sanctuary as an eco-tourist destination so that it could create employment for local villages.
A similar elephant sanctuary was proposed in the Shahpur forest on the outskirts of Thane. “The chief conservator of forest in Thane, Shree Bhagwan, had discussed the proposal with us,” said Dharmesh Solanki, manager (special projects) with the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals.
But the project has not made any headway. Despite several calls, Bhagwan was unavailable for a comment. Sources told Hindustan Times that he was caught up in a meeting with forest minister Patangrao Kadam.
Elephants have destroyed farms and killed farmers across Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka because of frequent human intrusion in their habitat.