If you have visited Gir since the forest opened for tourists after the monsoon, it would have been difficult to miss the new kids on the block. This season has been marked by the birth of 90 cubs, which is a rise of 20% as compared to last year. “It was the young Simbas who hogged the limelight” is how the Times of India described the euphoria as the forest reopened.
But the good news does not end here. There is a story within this story, which makes one even more proud of Gujarat and its efforts to conserve the Asiatic Lion. Every season 75 cubs are born but this time the higher number is attributed to the increase in the lioness population. The female-male ratio stands significantly improved- from 76 lions and 100 lionesses, the number now stands at 97 lions and 162 lionesses.
A recent study revealed that Asiatic lion cubs survive much better in Gujarat’s Gir forests as compared to Africa. The study revealed that 56% of cubs in Asia survive beyond three years, the age when the cub moves out of its pride. In contrast, the number of African lions that live beyond two years is 20%!
The census of lions in 2010 stated that the population of Asiatic lions in Gir has grown by 13% over a period of 5 years, taking the total to 411. Usually the growth rate stands between 5 to 7% but the latest figures indicated a sharp surge. That time, Shri Narendra Modi had called it Gujarat’s gift to the world on the state’s golden jubilee.
Cherishing our nature, conserving our wildlifeThe success at Gir is just one of the countless examples of the Gujarat Government to preserve the flora and fauna of the state. This is an issue about which Shri Modi is extremely passionate. He has correctly written that conserving our environment and nature has been a part of our culture for ages. He has always called for living in harmony with Mother Nature without causing any harm to our surroundings.
Another example of an effort to preserve our fauna is the Blackbuck National Park, which has been hailed as a unique model of wildlife conservation. The National Park, which is in Velavadar is one of the few sites where Blackbucks are found in such large numbers and the number of Blackbucks have constantly risen due to favourable conditions in the park. The Park is home to rich biodiversity, which is made possible due to combined efforts of the park authorities and the local people. Authorities say they have not heard of a single case of poaching in the last ten years! This again shows, with determined efforts and people’s participation, a lot is possible.
Significant Rise in Gujarat’s Mangrove Cover
In February this year, it came out that India witnessed a 23.34 sqkm increase in its mangrove cover between 2009 and 2011 thanks to the efforts of none other than Gujarat! A report by the Forest Survey of India commended Gujarat’s role in planting mangroves. Mangroves are regarded as productive wetlands and are home to many flora and faunal species, many of which are critically endangered.
Home to a quarter of the nation’s mangroves covering 1046 sqkm, Gujarat is home to the second highest mangrove cover after West Bengal. Having the nation’s longest coastline, Gujarat is an ideal atmosphere for mangroves to flourish.
To restore this precious ecosystem the Gujarat Ecology Commission launched a restoration project with Community Based Management. This not only included mangrove plantation but also spreading awareness. In an extremely commendable move, the Gujarat Government allotted Rs. 15.21 crore in the 2011-2012 budget for enhancing the mangrove cover.
Under Shri Modi’s guidance, the state Government has taken initiatives to increase tree cover in cities. In this regard special mention must be made about Gandhinagar, which was recently hailed as the Tree Capital of India. Latest figures show that 54% of the city is under green cover, making it 416 trees for every 100 people in the city. At a time when urbanization puts the growth of trees under threat, Gandhinagar is a perfect point of inspiration.
The total forest area has gone up from 1291 (thousand hectares) in 2001 to 1833 (thousand hectares) in 2011. In 2003 there were 25.1 crore trees outside the forest cover and in 2009 the number went up to 26.9 crore. Shri Modi intends to take this number further up to 35 crore over the next decade.
This is the brainchild of Shri Modi and examples his dynamism and determination towards preserving our forests. Shri Modi enhanced public participation in the planting of trees. Since 2005, Van Mahotsavs has spread into various parts of Gujarat, creating a mass movement for a greener Gujarat.
The 2012 Van Mahotsav commenced from Mangadh, a beautiful village in Panchmahal, which is home to Tribal heroes of Gujarat who waged a war against Colonial rulers in 1913 and lost their lives at the hands of colonial brutality! Shri Modi inaugurated Smriti Van as a tribute to these martyrs.
Preserving Aquatic LifeGujarat’s commitment to protect the flora and fauna extend beyond our lands, into the seas. The state Forest Department along with other organizations launched a campaign to protect the whale sharks in our waters. The campaign generated awareness and the fishing community’s emotional appeal too made a great difference. Till June 2012, 286 whale sharks have been successfully rescued. Shri Modi has penned a book, ‘Convenient Action’ in which he has listed out ways in which Gujarat has mitigated the menace of climate change. During his historic Google+ Hangout he shared his vision for the protection of the environment and laid great stress on the same.
Under Shri Narendra Modi leadership, Gujarat has scaled new heights of development in every sphere and one of the proudest successes has come in the protection of Gujarat’s flora and fauna. The efforts here are a part of a larger vision to make Gujarat a land that further lives in harmony with Mother Nature, for the benefit of its people and the countless trees and animals who share our great land with us.