Central Forest and Enviornment minister Jairam Ramesh today arrived at Rajkot airport. He will be visiting the controversial Girnar ropeway site in Junagadh, 85 km from Rajkot.
Centre has put Girnar ropeway project on hold citing threat to the nesting of endangered long billed vultures in Girnar forest. A team of conservationists recently visited the site and studied the impact of the proposed project before deciding its fate. Keeping his promise the central minister himself is also now in Gujarat to visit the site.
According to Asad Rehmani, a prominent conservationist from Bombay Natural History Society(BNHS) Girnar wildlife sanctuary is the only known colony of long-billed vultures in Gujarat. If the ropeway passes through the trees housing vulture nests, it will be a disaster. 121 vultures (long-billed and white-beaked species vultures) were counted in the region in 2005 which declined to 79, according to the 2007 census. According to Rehmani the environment impact assessment report submitted by a private firm Usha Breco Ltd seeking to construct the ropeway was not factually correct with particular reference to faunal diversity of the area.
The ropeway project seeks diversion of around seven hectares of Girnar forestland was yet to get environmental clearance.
According to last state-wide census of vultures in Gujarat conducted by Gandhinagar based GEER foundation, 47 vultures and their 22 nests had been recorded on rope way route. According to Prakruti nature club volunteers Dineshbhai Goswami, Jignesh Gohel, Devshibhai Ram, Janibhai, Vijaybhai Gandhi, Mahetabhai, Rajshibhai Ram and Aslambhai, who participated in vulture counting, the nests of vultures were spotted on the left after 1950 steps near Velnath on Girnar hill. Devshibhai said that there were various types of vultures including Dakugidh, Rajgidh, Kherogidh and Girnarigidh.
Though local politicians are interested in ropeway project, some groups of people including environmentalists and Jains are opposing it. The Jain sect has important shrines and temples on mount Girnar. They are not in favor of ropeway project. They have many reasons to believe in their stand including a reason that ropeway would bring uncontrollable number of people to Mount Girnar which would create pollution. While politicians believe that ropeway would bring more tourists to this place, those who oppose ropeway believe that Girnar should not be taken just as a tourism place, but it is actually a religious place and its religious, environmental dimension is more important. Many foreign tourists who come to Girnar actually supports the anti-ropeway stand as they find if amazing to see hundreds of people walking to the steps to defeat the height of the hill.
Mount Girnar is highest mountain of Gujarat. It is older than Himalayas. Everyday hundreds of people walk on the steps from foothill to reach Ambaji Mandir and Gorakhnath Shikhar located on top. Those who can’t walk to the peak do hire local cart operators.