Gujarat legislator accused of harming Gir forest
AHMEDABAD: A Gujarat legislator is carrying out illegal mining and stone crushing in the protected Gir forest - home to Asia's only lion species - ravaging the areas around its periphery, a state government employee has alleged.
Kanaksinh Parmar, 40, who works as a translator in the state secretariat in Gandhinagar, has written to Chief Minister Narendra Modi to draw his attention to the environmental degradation in the Kodinar area of Gir.
"I spent my childhood in Kodinar and I grew up there amid its sylvan surroundings. But all this has changed now," said a worried Parmar.
Kodinar is the place where two of the three lion corridors - Gir Kodinar and Gir Mitiyala - pass. Gir is around 400 km from here.
"There are a number of mining and stone crushing activities within a periphery of five kilometres of the Gir forest area in Harmadia, Ebhalvad, Pinchhvi, Arithia and Nagadala villages in the Kodinar taluka of Junagadh district. These illegal activities are due to direct involvement of Kodinar-Khamba MLA Dinubhai Boghabhai Solanki," he said in the Nov 4 letter to Modi.
Asserting that he is ready to substantiate all his charges against the legislator, Parmar says he is fighting a lone battle against Solanki, whom he charges with being a "a law unto himself" and accuses him of "denuding the forest".
"Many police cases, some of them serious, have been registered against him," Parmar says in his complaint.
Parmar told IANS: "I am doing this at risk to my life. It may seem a losing battle, but I will keep fighting. Solanki has let loose a reign of terror in Kodinar."
However, the legislator brushed off the allegations as unfounded and politically motivated.
"We do not do anything illegal. My family does have a quarry and it has a valid permit," Solanki said, claiming that a malicious campaign had been let loose against him.
He alleged that a local NGO was blackmailing him and said the various criminal cases against him were filed by his political opponents during various elections.
Junagadh Collector Ashwini Kumar also denied there was any mining or stone crushing activity in and around the Sasan Gir area which is a protected lion sanctuary.
However, the official clarified that unlike Sasan Gir, the Girnar reserved forest falls within the Junagadh city limits and it was only four months ago that an area of five kilometres around its periphery was declared part of the sanctuary area.
The decision was protested by local residents as quarrying of limestone is their mainstay.
"We have allowed the cutting of stones which is done by heavy cutters on humanitarian grounds. However, there is no blasting at the site," the collector said.
Pradeep Khanna, Gujarat's chief wildlife warden and principal chief conservator of forests, said the area that falls in Junagadh city was notified as a sanctuary area on May 31, 2008, and the forest department gave a no-objection certificate for stone quarrying in the area on certain conditions.
"The final decision is yet to be taken. The very fact that the government had declared the area as an eco-fragile zone means we are concerned about the ecology and want to find a solution to it. However, there is no question of any mining in Sasan Gir," he said.
According to the conservation body IUCN, there are around 175 lions in the Gir forests.