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The Gujarat High Court today dismissed a PIL challenging the state government's Ambardi lion safari proposal for tourists in and around the 400 hectares of fenced area on the eastern side of the Gir National Park. A division bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi dismissed the PIL filed by environmentalist Biren Pandya, saying that the state government has complied with all conditions and secured required permissions. The court said the proposal for the safari was made in 2005, and in 2008, the central government had given recognition, or in-principle approval for the same.
It said that even the physical infrastructure for the safari, like fencing, is in place. The PIL had sought the court's direction to the government to set aside the plan to convert the forest area into a lion safari, as it will damage the eco-sensitive zone. Pandya had contended in the petition that the government's proposal had received nod only from the technical committee of the Central Zoo Authority, and this cannot be construed as a final nod as the committee is not empowered for the same. During the course of hearing, the state government had submitted before the court that it had received the final permission to start the lion safari at Ambardi from the ministry concerned, and produced an official document regarding the same, dated June 19. It had said that a newly-appointed technical committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) had given a go-ahead to the project and a final order regarding this was passed on June 19 this year by the ministry. The park aims to take the tourist load off the existing Gir National Park. It will have three zoo-bred lions for public viewing in the forest environment. The forest department has also received permission to house two lionesses and a lion in the park for public viewing. As per the latest census carried out by the state forest department in 2015, Gujarat is home to 523 Asiatic lions in the Gir forest and other areas in Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts.
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