Empower in Media

Empower Foundation in Media

The NGOs work and efforts are avidly covered by leading Indian and international media like The Times of India, DNA, The Mid Day, The Hindustan Times, The Mumbai Mirror, The Sunday Guardian, The Outlook, Navbharat Times, The Global Post, The India Today etc

Empower Foundation and Asiatic Lions Translocation Issue

(1) Mid-Day Mumbai – ‘Don’t relocate Gir lions’ – On the occasion of World Lions Day, city NGO writes to international conservation body to put pressure and prevent relocation of Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh
Ranjeet Jadhav, August 11, 2013, Mumbai

https://www.mid-day.com/articles/don-t-relocate-gir-lions/226344

(2) HT Bhopal – NGO seeks global body’s intervention to stop translocation
Sravani Sarkar | 10 Aug 2013 | Hindustan Times (Bhopal)
http://www.saveourlions.blogspot.in/2013/08/ngo-seeks-global-bodys-intervention-to.html

(3) HT Indore – IUCN help sought to oppose translocation
NGO opposes movement of Gir beasts to MP claiming adverse conditions
Sravani Sarkar | 10 Aug 2013 | Hindustan Times (Bhopal)
http://www.saveourlions.blogspot.in/2013/08/iucn-help-sought-to-oppose-translocation.html

(4) TOI Amd – Translocation plan violates important IUCN guidelines
Mumbai NGO Writes To International Body, Seeks Its Intervention
Himanshu Kaushik | TNN | Aug 10, 2013, 02.32 PM IST
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/NGO-writes-to-international-body-seeking-its-intervention-for-a-review/articleshow/21742888.cms

(5) TOI Mum -Say ‘no’ to Kuno: Wildlife activists
Linah Baliga, TNN Aug 4, 2013, 10.41PM IST
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-08-04/flora-fauna/41057202_1_gir-lions-kuno-wildlife-sanctuary-wildlife-activists

(6) TOI- Asiatic lions have homes in over 1,000 Saurashtra villages
Vijaysinh Parmar, TNN Jul 15, 2013, 03.20AM IST
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-15/flora-fauna/40588939_1_asiatic-lions-gir-forest-sasan-gir

(7) TOI- 10 translocations have failed worldwide
Himanshu Kaushik, TNN Jun 28, 2013, 05.22PM IST
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-06-28/ahmedabad/40255333_1_translocation-gir-lions-manas

(8) TOI – No translocation only natural migration
Himanshu Kaushik, TNN Jun 28, 2013, 05.28PM IST
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-06-28/ahmedabad/40254388_1_translocation-asiatic-lions-gir-national-park

(9) TOI : Threat to conservation: Lion bone trade on rise
TNN Jun 25, 2013, 06.44AM IST
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-06-25/flora-fauna/40184311_1_lion-skeleton-lion-bones-lion-conservation

(10) TOI : Madhya Pradesh unsuitable for big cats: Study
TNN Jun 25, 2013, 02.49AM IST
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/flora-fauna/Madhya-Pradesh-unsuitable-for-big-cats-Study/articleshow/20752268.cms

(11) DNA : Shifting Gir lions will bring disaster: Experts
Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013, 10:35 IST | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1852708/report-shifting-gir-lions-will-bring-disaster-experts

(12) DNA : Lion translocation: NGOs cite 10 failures in the past!
Smitha R, DNA | Jun 25, 2013, 06:17AM IST
http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/GUJ-AHD-lion-translocation-ngos-cite-10-failures-in-the-past-4301886-NOR.html
http://epaper.dnaindia.com/story.aspx?id=27199&boxid=103878&ed_d

(13) The Sunday Guardian : NGO seeks help in lions’ translocation, The NGO claims that the translocation would violate 29 guidelines set by IUCN
Tare, Kiran | 7 September 2013
http://www.sunday-guardian.com/news/ngo-seeks-help-in-lions-translocation

(14) The India Today : Modi, Chouhan continue sparring over translocation of lions
Chaturvedi, Devika | 4 September 2013
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/narendra-modi-translocation-of-asiatic-lions-asiatic-lion-gir-forests-kuno-palpur-sanctuary/1/305463.html

(15) DNA : Mumbai NGO roars against translocation of Gir lions from Gujarat to MP
Goenka, Karishma | 17 December, 2013
http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-mumbai-ngo-roars-against-translocation-of-gir-lions-from-gujarat-to-mp-1936359

Empower Foundation and Leopards of SGNP

(16) TOI : Leopard kills boy, 6th death in 7 months
Baliga, Linah| 28 January 2013
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-01-28/mumbai/36595327_1_female-leopard-leopard-attack-sgnp

(17) TOI : Female leopard trapped in Aarey
Baliga, Linah| 28 January 2013
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-01-28/mumbai/36595889_1_female-leopard-leopard-attacks-sgnp

(18) Mumbai Mirror : Mumbai: Leopard kills 11-year-old boy in Aarey Colony
Virat Singh | 28 January 2013
http://www.mumbaimirror.com/mumbai/others/Mumbai-Leopard-kills-11-year-old-boy-in-Aarey-Colony/articleshow/18218638.cms

(19) DNA : Relieving in open near SGNP? Beware of the big cat
Shahkar Abidi | 18 January 2013
http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-relieving-in-open-near-sgnp-beware-of-the-big-cat-1789963

(20) Outlook : Fear Stalks Mumbai Suburb – A spurt in leopard attacks leads to conspiracy theories and efforts for co-existence
Pinglay-Plumber, Prachi | 20 February 2013
https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/fear-stalks-mumbai-suburb/283984

(21) GlobalPost USA : India: Leopards stalk Bollywood -Leopards living in the heart of Mumbai have mauled or killed more than 100 people over the past decade
Overdorf, Jason| 20 March 2013
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/130319/indian-leopards-bollywood-wildlife-poaching

Empower Foundation and Tigers of Dang

(22) TOI : Tigress, 2 cubs sighted in Dang: NGO
Kaushik, Himanshu | tnn | Jan 30, 2018, 06:53 IST
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/tigress-2-cubs-sighted-in-dang-ngo/articleshow/62701780.cms?from=mdr

Empower Foundation and Aarey Forests

(23) Mid-Day : MMRCL Starts Soil Testing At Aarey Colony Despite Stay Order
Correspondent | April 2, 2017
https://www.mid-day.com/articles/mmrcl-starts-soil-testing-at-aarey-colony-despite-stay-order-mumbai-news/18128175

(24) Mumbai Mirror : Keeping Aarey Green: Citizens to start talks with Japanese govt
Baliga, Linah| Updated: May 4, 2017
https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/civic/keeping-aarey-green-citizens-to-start-talks-with-japanese-govt/articleshow/58505786.cms

(25) DNA : Toddler urges CM to save Aarey forests, through a video
Virat A Singh | Updated: Apr 16, 2017, 07:40 AM IST
http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-toddler-urges-cm-to-save-aarey-forests-through-a-video-2403500/amp

(26) Mumbai Live : CM Uncle Save Aarey Please!
Hanvate, Mangal | April 17, 2018
https://www.mumbailive.com/en/civic/cm-uncle-please-save-aarey-10422

(27) Mumbai Mirror : MMRC did not reveal the full eco damage from Metro shed
Linah Baliga | June 6, 2017
http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/Article.aspx?eid=31821&articlexml=MMRC-did-not-reveal-the-full-eco-damage-06062017005006

(28) TOI : Aarey facts hidden for Metro, NGO informs Japanese lender
TNN | Updated: Jul 5, 2017
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/aarey-facts-hidden-for-metro-ngo-informs-japanese-lender/articleshow/59454021.cms

(29) Mumbai Mirror : Save Aarey: Shiv Sena’s Aaditya Thackeray strengthens battle to save trees from Mumbai Metro shed | June 8, 2017
https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/civic/save-aarey-shiv-senas-aaditya-thackeray-strengthens-battle-to-save-trees-from-mumbai-metro-shed/articleshow/59053823.cms
Full Articles:

Empower Foundation and Asiatic Lions Tranlocation Issue

(1) Mid-Day Mumbai – ‘Don’t relocate Gir lions’ – On the occasion of World Lions Day, city NGO writes to international conservation body to put pressure and prevent relocation of Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh
Ranjeet Jadhav, August 11, 2013, Mumbai
https://www.mid-day.com/articles/don-t-relocate-gir-lions/226344

On the occasion of World Lions Day, city NGO writes to international conservation body to put pressure and prevent relocation of Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh

Many aspects need to be considered while thinking of relocating animals. Mumbai-based NGO, Empower Foundation, has written a letter to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) for intervention in the Lion Translocation issue between two states, citing 29 guideline violations, on the eve of World Lions Day.

The NGO feels that translocation of lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh should not be done, as not only it will have a negative impact on the population of lions but chances of poaching will also increase.

Appoint an expert
Speaking to SUNDAY MiD DAY, Founder chairman of NGO Empower Foundation, Jalpesh Mehta, said, “We are not against translocation, but how, where and the end result is our concern. We have urged IUCN to appoint an international lion expert or a team to save the lions from being pushed into death beds (see box).”

Against judgment
In June this year, the team analysed 10 global failures of translocations and submitted a report citing 12 adverse conditions of the proposed translocation site in Kuno Palpur, which would be fatal for the lions. “Translocation is a serious animal rights issue. The Supreme Court judgment dated April 15, 2013 states the proposal of translocating a pride of Lions to Kuno, and every three to five years, moving the male lion from the wild to captivity in zoo. This is a sheer violation of Wildlife rights and is a cause for grave concern,” added Mehta. Empower Foundation is also involved in various other activities to conserve the Asiatic Lions and build awareness on theissue.

Born free and living free
The list of issues raised by Empower Foundation include:
• Poaching hub: MP is a major poaching ground, as it has lost 453 tigers out of 710 in a decade with 257 tigers remaining according to the 2011 Census.
• Location: Situated on the border of MP, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, poaching, infiltration and allied crime probablilty is very high
• Water: Kuno-Palpur forest has very less water sources unlike the Gir region
• Temperatures: The minimum temperature is 2°C, while the maximum 49°C. This is fatal for lions

(2) HT Bhopal – NGO seeks global body’s intervention to stop translocation
Sravani Sarkar | 10 Aug 2013 | Hindustan Times (Bhopal)
http://www.saveourlions.blogspot.in/2013/08/ngo-seeks-global-bodys-intervention-to.html

There has been no successful lion translocation in the past in the country
Jalpesh Meha
Founder chairperson, Empower Foundation

On eve of the World Lions Day (August 10), a Mumbai-based NGO has sought intervention of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – the oldest global environment network – on the issue of the translocation of Asiatic Lions from Gir in Gujarat to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh.

The NGO – Empower Foundation – has been opposing the translocation of lions – saying that the conditions are adverse in the proposed site of Kuno Palpur and that serious animal rights’ issues are involved with the entire process. The organization is rather insisting on increasing habitat availability for lions through restoration, connectivity, corridor establishment, habitat protection and natural movement of lions.

Now, the NGO has also said that the translocation would amount to serious violations of IUCN guidelines on 29 counts and has urged the IUCN authorities to appoint an international expert/team of experts to intervene in the matter and guide the authorities in two states.

The founder chairperson of the Empower Foundation, Jalpesh Mehta has written to the IUCN authorities including the chairman of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) Reintroduction Specialist Group Dr Frederic Launay seeking this intervention. In the letter to the authorities, the NGO has given details of all the 29 guidelines violation and the 12 adverse conditions in Kuno Palpur (based on NGO’s own study) to draw attention of the international body.

The translocation issue is hanging fire between two states – Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh since more than a decade. Recently, the Supreme Court mandated translocation of Lions to MP, but Gujarat government filed a review petition pointing out that the decision was one-sided and highlighting the poaching culture of MP (50% of world’s tigers over the last decade were poached in MP).

“We have been working on this issue since a while and in a situation where there has been no successful lion translocation in the past in the country and concerned persons having no expertise on Lions, we thought it apt to seek the intervention of IUCN,” Mehta said while talking to HT.

He added that the Empower foundation was not against translocation, but concerned with the end result. “We simply want to save lions from being pushed to extinction,” he said

(3) HT Indore – IUCN help sought to oppose translocation
NGO opposes movement of Gir beasts to MP claiming adverse conditions
Sravani Sarkar | 10 Aug 2013 | Hindustan Times (Bhopal)
http://www.saveourlions.blogspot.in/2013/08/iucn-help-sought-to-oppose-translocation.html

BHOPAL: On eve of the World Lions Day ( August 10), a Mumbai-based NGO has sought intervention of International Union for Conservation of Nature ( IUCN) – the oldest global environment network – on the issue of the translocation of Asiatic Lions from Gir in Gujarat to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh.

The NGO – Empower Foundation – has been opposing the translocation of lions – saying that the conditions are adverse in the proposed site of Kuno Palpur and that serious animal rights’ issues are involved with the entire process. The organization is rather insisting on increasing habitat availability for lions through restoration, connectivity, corridor establishment, habitat protection and natural movement of lions.

Now, the NGO has also said that the translocation would amount to serious violations of IUCN guidelines on 29 counts and has urged the IUCN authorities to appoint an international expert/team of experts to intervene in the matter and guide the authorities in two states.

The founder chairperson of the Empower Foundation, Jalpesh Mehta has written to the IUCN authorities including the chairman of the Species Survival Commission ( SSC) Reintroduction Specialist Group Dr Frederic Launay seeking this intervention. In the letter to the authorities, the NGO has given details of all the 29 guidelines violation and the 12 adverse conditions in Kuno Palpur (based on NGO’s own study) to draw attention of the international body.

The translocation issue is hanging fire between two states – Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh since more than a decade. Recently, the Supreme Court mandated translocation of Lions to MP, but Gujarat government filed a review petition pointing out that the decision was one-sided and highlighting the poaching culture of MP (50% of world’s tigers over the last decade were poached in MP).

“We have been working on this issue since a while and in a situation where there has been no successful Lion translocation in the past in the country and concerned persons having no expertise on Lions, we thought it apt to seek the intervention of IUCN,” Mehta said while talking to HT. He added that the Empower foundation was not against translocation, but concerned with the end result. “We want to save lions from being pushed to extinction,” he said.

(4) TOI Amd – Translocation plan violates important IUCN guidelines’
Mumbai NGO Writes To International Body, Seeks Its Intervention
Himanshu Kaushik | TNN | Aug 10, 2013, 02.32 PM IST
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/NGO-writes-to-international-body-seeking-its-intervention-for-a-review/articleshow/21742888.cms

Ahmedabad: On the occasion of World Lion Day on August 10, a Mumbai-based non-governmental organization, Empower Foundation, has written to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for its guidance and involvement in the translocation of Asiatic lions from Gir National park to Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

The foundation had earlier submitted a report to the state government highlighting the adverse conditions that prevailed in the proposed translocation site. It had also analyzed 10 translocations across the globe which had failed. Further, the NGO had cited 12 adverse conditions at Kuno-Palpur which could prove fatal for the lions.

In his letter to Dr Frederic Launay (chairperson of the IUCN SSC Reintroduction Specialist Group), Jalpesh Mehta, founder-chairperson of Empower Foundation, has said that the NGO is not against translocation. He says that it is farcical in the case of the Gir lions that the petitioner and the party interested in translocation are both part of the deciding or recommending and advising body on the issue.

“Since the matter has become political with various people having vested interests, the only solution is international intervention in the matter, keeping in mind wildlife welfare first and the rest later,” Mehta says in the letter. The NGO requested IUCN to get involved by either appointing an international lion expert or a team of lion experts who could guide “the self-claiming wildlife experts who may be having some expertise in tigers, birds or hospitality among others but not lions for sure, but are keen to try their hands at lions to get some experience and visibility at the cost of the precious wildlife.”

Key IUCN guidelines violated

Guideline 3.2:
There should generally be strong evidence that the threat(s) that caused any previous extinction have been correctly identified and removed or sufficiently reduced.

NGO’s view:
The previous threats of extinction to tigers in Kuno Palpur came from poaching. This has neither been reduced nor removed. In fact, it has increased. Sariska and Panna tiger reserves lost all their tigers in the recent past due to poaching. Madhya Pradesh has become India’s poaching capital and, in the last decade, was responsible for 50% of the world poaching of tigers.

Guideline 3.6:
Justifying a conservation introduction requires an especially high level of confidence about the organisms’ performance after release, including over the long-term, with reassurance on its acceptability from the perspective of the release area’s ecology, and the social and economic interests of its human communities.

NGO’s View:
Three accounts of forest dependence on the periphery of the Kuno sanctuary by Dr. Asmita Kabra, Samrakshan Trust, state that from time to time, the sanctuary had provided refuge to various tribes of Chambal. The gun culture of today is also a public fact. The Sahariya and Ladar tribes depend mainly on the forest for its produce and hunting.

Guideline (3.8):
Where a high degree of uncertainty remains or it is not possible to assess reliably that a conservation introduction presents low risks, it should not proceed, and alternative conservation solutions should be sought

NGO’s View:
Lions in Gujarat are not limited to 1412 sq km of Gir National Park and Sanctuary but have migrated naturally and are living successfully over 10500 sq km across Saurashtra region. There is a need to correct the perception of there being a risk to the lions dure to their concentration in one forest.

Guideline 4.2:
A monitoring process, data requirement, methods, protocols, responsibility matrix for collection, analysis and dissemination of information is an important aspect [of translocation]. A multidisciplinary team with access to expert technical advice for all phases of the programme [is a must].

NGO’s view:
Monitoring process, data requirement, methods, protocols, responsibility matrix for collection, analysis and dissemination of information are missing in the Forest Department of Madhya Pradesh. Further, formation of an inexperienced team without any experience or expertise in dealing with lions also violates this guideline. Tiger conservationists, bird experts and hoteliers are not equipped to handle this programme.

Guideline 5.1.2:
Matching habitat suitability and availability with the needs of the candidate species is central to feasibility and design.

NGO’s view:
The proposed habitat in Kuno-Palpur, outside the indigenous range of lions, is unsuitable for the big cats. This challenges the ‘feasibility and design’ clause of the IUCN. The biggest concern, besides the adverse topography and terrain, is the prey base. The overall prey-base of all animals per sq km had showed a growth of 79%. On the face of it, this calls for a global conservation award to Kuno. The anger of the displaced local tribes also poses a challenge to translocation efforts.

(5) TOI Mum -Say ‘no’ to Kuno: Wildlife activists
Linah Baliga, TNN Aug 4, 2013, 10.41PM IST
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-08-04/flora-fauna/41057202_1_gir-lions-kuno-wildlife-sanctuary-wildlife-activists

MUMBAI: The Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary (also known as SasanGir) is believed to be the last residence for last 400 Asiatic lions over this earth. Gir proved not only just a home to these majestic Lions, but as a paradise to them. Had it been the terrain, vegetation, climate, or medical care, Gir always stood the best for them. It’s not only the Gujarat government, but even the people of Gujarat has shown much affection towards these lions. To people of Gujarat, Gir Lions are like members of their family. Gir has always stood the best fighting poaching, hence the Lions there feel themselves safe from cruel hands.

“However, the decision for translocation of Gir Lions to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary (MP) has been thrown over everyone and precisely the animals there in. The decision slapped down not only Gujarat government but also all the Wildlife lovers and conservationists. While Indian Govt. claims this plan to be the most needful and call of the hour which would offer the Gir Lions more space to expand their prides, on the other hand paved the path for the wild Lions to end up in hell i.e. Zoo. While the whole world is protesting against captivating wild animals, we Indians are denoting this act as beneficial?” said Jalpesh Mehta, NGO, Empower Foundation

(6) TOI- Asiatic lions have homes in over 1,000 Saurashtra villages
Vijaysinh Parmar, TNN Jul 15, 2013, 03.20AM IST
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-15/flora-fauna/40588939_1_asiatic-lions-gir-forest-sasan-gir
SASAN (JUNAGADH): Have Asiatic lions found their own homes within the home around the Gir forest?

State forest department officials said over the last two decades, lions have dispersed from the Gir forest, which was a core area of Asiatic lions, and have settled down in respective areas and made their permanent ‘homes’.

The data analysis of direct and indirect evidence like sightings, prey and pugmarks show that lions’ kingdoms spread over 1,050 villages in three districts of Saurashtra region, said Sandeep Kumar, deputy conservator of forests (wildlife division), Sasan-Gir.

“Lions have dispersed from core population of the Gir forest to other areas over the period of time in search of new habitat and resources. From 1997, lions began to stray in the eastern revenue areas of Amreli and Bhavnagar districts,”

“According to the 2005 lion census, there were 68 lions (17 in Girnar, 12 in coastal forests, 8 in Mitiyala and 31 in eastern Savarkundla-Palitana landscape) outside Gir. The latest data analysis of lions’ movements shows that there six satellite populations (those outside the Gir forest) of lions where the wild cats have permanently settled and made their homes,” said Kumar.

If Govt. will raise lions at this rate. I am sure that one day these lions will replace dogs as a pet. Great news it is actually path reversal news. Instead of reading news about extinction of lions …
Recently, the Supreme Court had ordered translocation Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh. The state government has opposed the move and is likely to file a curative petition before the apex court.

Forest officials argued that there are no threats of any disease or epidemic as shown in favour of translocation for lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh because these lions have permanently and comfortably settled in these six different areas at a geographically distanced area from each other.

“Lions have already found their own homes within the home and there is no threat about their extinction. At present, lions occupy an area over 16,000 square kilometre in Saurashtra spread over in three districts-Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar,” he added.

(7) TOI- 10 translocations have failed worldwide
Himanshu Kaushik, TNN Jun 28, 2013, 05.22PM IST
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-06-28/ahmedabad/40255333_1_translocation-gir-lions-manas

AHMEDABAD: Not only the translocation of lions to Chandraprabha wildlife sanctuary has failed but ten other translocations across the world have also failed, the latest one being the Indian Rhino’s translocation in 2013. Atleast three incidents of translocation of lions have been taken up across the world including two in India and all three have failed.
Empower Foundation, a NGO working on Sanjay Gandhi National Park’s man-animal conflict, has submitted a detailed report to the Gujarat forest department highlighting why translocations should not be taken up. Jalpesh Mehta and his team have in the report “SAVE THE LION, Say no to Translocation,” stated that “Empower foundation has analyzed 10 Case Studies of Translocation failures covering Elephants, Gaurs, Leopards, Rhinos, African and Asiatic Lions (From Gir to Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary in UP in 1956). These show a success rate of only 16 per cent, while the rest either return to their own region (causing major conflicts), die or are killed by locals due to severe conflicts. India has had no majorly successful translocation.”

Mehta said that in 2013, 18 rhinos were shifted to Manas from Kaziranga and Pobitora. The translocation was a part of Indian Rhino Vision 2020 Programme. Poachers continued their killing and four rhinos were killed in Manas after they were translocated. Another translocation happened in 2011, where elephants were translocated from Bokakhat to Masan and the locals had killed some of the creatures.

For India’s lions, three translocations have been held and all have failed. In 1904, cubs of African lions were included in Kuno and all of them were shot dead; in 1956, Gir lions were shifted to Chandraprabha and all three died due to inadequate area, lack of systematic monitoring and unrestricted movement of grazing animals.

Between 1997 and 2001, 22 lions were translocated to multiple areas and all of them returned to their original territory from where they were captured and this was due to human-wildlife conflict.
After studying various research papers and issues, “We concluded that all translocated animals will be chronically-stressed to some degree upon release. Chronic stress makes translocated animals more vulnerable to other environmental factors, and thereby amplifies the potential problems encountered when released such as succumbing to disease or predation even though they could have had a better potential to survive, reproduce and establish a self sustaining population in the wild. But a lot of factors in context to Kuno-Palpur Sanctuary are against the overall interest of the lions who will ultimately become victims of chronic stress, disease, reproductive issues and predation,” said Mehta.

(8) TOI – No translocation only natural migration
Himanshu Kaushik, TNN Jun 28, 2013, 05.28PM IST
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-06-28/ahmedabad/40254388_1_translocation-asiatic-lions-gir-national-park

AHMEDABAD: A report submitted by an NGO, Empower Foundation, to the forest department has stated that lions should not be translocated and the big cats should be allowed to migrate naturally only.

The report has suggested that even if the need arises, the lions should be given a safe passage and should be given a natural corridor to any other place, but they should not be translocated to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh, which will result into a failed translocation and extinction of the endangered lions from the new proposed habitat, a big loss to the wildlife.

The report has stated that lions are not present only in the Gir National Park, but over a period of time have migrated naturally hundred of kilometres away to places like Amreli, Savarkundla, Liliya Porbandar, Paniya, Mitiyala, Barda, Una, Chhara, Sutrapada, Babariya, Kodinar, Visavadar, Hipavadli, Jamvada, Jasadhar, Girnar, Bhavnagar and Palitana. The 1,412 sq km abode of Asiatic lions has now spread across 10,500 sq km, thus mitigating concentration risk in one area.

Jalpesh Mehta of Empower Foundation said if an epidemic can kill all lions in Gujarat, it can also kill all the tigers in the MP-Rajasthan-Maharashtra belt (Pench-Kanha-Bandhavgarh-Ranthambhor) and south India’s Karnataka-Kerala-Tamilnadu belt (Mudumalai-Nagarhole-Bandipur-Waynad) as the distance is almost similar between Gir and other areas as compared to tiger reserves. The report has further stated that Gujarat should stop using Gir lions, in fact the Gujarat government should communicate that they are found everywhere and should mention lions in Gir, outside Gir or in Greater Gir or Saurashtra region to correct the world’s perception on the issue.

(9) TOI : Threat to conservation: Lion bone trade on rise
TNN Jun 25, 2013, 06.44AM IST
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-06-25/flora-fauna/40184311_1_lion-skeleton-lion-bones-lion-conservation

AHMEDABAD: The international market value of lion bones range between $ 300 and $ 500 for every kilogram. The bones are used in China for traditional Chinese medicines. Lion bones are being used as substitutes for tiger bone potions, finds Empower Foundation, a Mumbai based NGO working on Sanjay Gandhi National Park’s man-animal conflict.
In 2007, eight lions were killed in Gir by poachers from MP. Investigations carried out by CID (Crime) officials had concluded with the arrest of several poachers including Sarkas Lal, leader of this poachers’ gang

In that case too, CID officials had concluded that the lion bones were passed off as tiger bones and were smuggled to China for “medicinal purposes.”
The report submitted to the government stated that South Africa has been supplying a considerable volume of lion bones to mainly Laos, Vietnam and China. A warning against such trade has been issued by LionAid, an organisation which is into lion conservation. LionAid has warned that such trade could well stimulate a demand that would increasingly involve poaching of lions.

The South African trade involves lion breeders, canned lion hunters and taxidermists. The value of a lion skeleton could therefore be in excess of $10,000. “In China, lion bones are soaked for a variable period in rice wine, whereas in Laos and Vietnam, the bones are made into a paste with added ingredients like herbs. The paste is then dissolved in rice wine. Such bone tonics are used to treat a variety of ailments. Bones from wild lions are considered more efficacious than those bred in captivity. In South Africa, Vietnamese and Thai nationals have been arrested at O R Tambo International Airport with illegal lion bones in their luggage, but levels of the illegal trade are considered much higher than such occasional seizures suggest.

The report stated that lion carcasses should now be treated with the same degree of suspicion. As per LionAid, in India, all carcasses of tigers are considered poaching incidents and same treatment has to be given to lion carcasses.

(10) TOI : Madhya Pradesh unsuitable for big cats: Study
TNN Jun 25, 2013, 02.49AM IST
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/flora-fauna/Madhya-Pradesh-unsuitable-for-big-cats-Study/articleshow/20752268.cms

AHMEDABAD: Madhya Pradesh is a major poaching ground with a strong gun culture. This was the finding of Empower Foundation, a Mumbai based NGO working on Sanjay Gandhi National Park’s man-animal conflict.

The NGO in its report submitted to the forest department has stated that lions should not be translocated to Kuno as Madhya Pradesh is known to be a major poaching ground and the state has lost 453 tigers out of 710 (63% loss) in a decade. The state as per the 2011 census has only 257 tigers. The loss of tiger in Madhya Pradesh was 50 per cent of the total loss of the tigers across the world.

Jalpesh Mehta has claimed that between 2000 and 2010, about 1079 tigers have died across the globe and of these 453 were in Madhya Pradesh itself.
It was also pointed out that Sariska and Panna have recently lost all their tigers. The two sanctuaries had 28 and 25 tigers respectively and Palpur Kuno had only two tigers. Once upon a time, Kuno used to have 25 tigers.

Sheopur district has 4800 fire arm licenses for a population of six lakh and the sanctuary area was once a hub of dacoits from Chambal. As these are licensed guns, one cannot estimate the illegal fire arms present in the area. Also the state has an adjoining sensitive location – situated on the border of three states namely Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Geographically, Mehta said that the hilly terrain of Kuno-Palpur forest with very little water sources unlike Gir region will also not support translocation.

The government of Madhya Pradesh has declared Sheopur as a drought-prone area and district affected by natural calamity. These conditions are unfavourable for lion translocation.
Further, he added that tigers and bears live in Kuno-Palpur and this would lead to in-fighting and territorial wars among the wild animals, further increasing the chances of man-animal conflict.

(11) DNA : Shifting Gir lions will bring disaster: Experts
Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013, 10:35 IST | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1852708/report-shifting-gir-lions-will-bring-disaster-experts

The issue of translocation of Asiatic Lions from Gir sanctuary to Madhya Pradesh has hit another wall — this time that of an NGO. The social organisation has opposed the move on various grounds, including the fact that most of earlier translocation attempts carried out in independent India had failed, often endangering the animals.

The NGO’s analysis of the arguments, on which the translocation of lions was finally allowed, shows that several factors relating to shifting the big cat were either not considered or ignored while allowing the translocation.

The NGO, Empower Foundation’s analysis titled — ‘Failure of the proposed lion translocation to Kuno Palpur, Madhya Pradesh’ — also found that the government has not strongly positioned the fact that the lion habitat in Gujarat goes much beyond Gir.

Jalpesh Mehta and his team who carried out the analysis said the argument regarding an epidemic killing the entire populace of lion does not hold true as the lions are not concentrated in Gir alone, but have dispersed far and wide.

“If an epidemic can kill all the lions, the same thing can happen to all the tigers in the MP-Rajasthan-Maharashtra belt and Karnataka-Kerala-Tamil Nadu belt as the distance in these areas is more or less similar between Gir and other areas where lions are found,” said Mehta.

The NGO also talks of the stress suffered by animals during capture and transfer to new locations apart from citing several cases of failed translocations particularly those concerning carnivores.

The NGO argues that there is no history of any major successful translocation in India. The study mentions 10 cases of failed translocations of elephants, gaurs, leopards, rhinos, African and Asiatic Lions (from Gir to Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary in UP in 1956), which show only 16% success rate in a study of 119 cases of translocated animals. In the rest of the cases, the animals returned causing major conflicts, dying or being killed by locals due to severe man-animal conflicts.

(12) DNA : Lion translocation: NGOs cite 10 failures in the past!
Smitha R, DNA | Jun 25, 2013, 06:17AM IST
http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/GUJ-AHD-lion-translocation-ngos-cite-10-failures-in-the-past-4301886-NOR.html
http://epaper.dnaindia.com/story.aspx?id=27199&boxid=103878&ed_d

Ahmedabad: The issue of translocation of Asiatic Lions from Gir sanctuary to Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno-Palpur has hit another wall — this time that of an NGO. The social organisation opposes the move on various grounds, including the fact that most of earlier translocation attempts carried out in Independent India ended in failures, often endangering the animal itself.

The NGO’s analysis of the arguments, on which the translocation of lions was finally allowed, shows that several factors relating to shifting the big cat was either not considered or ignored while allowing for the translocation.

NGO, Empower Foundation’s analysis titled, ‘Failure of the proposed lion translocation to Kuno Palpur, Madhya Pradesh’ also found that the government has not rightly and strongly positioned the fact that the lion habitat in Gujarat goes much beyond Gir.

The analysis argues that there is no history of any major successful translocation in India. The study mentions 10 case of failed translocations covering elephants, gaurs, leopards, rhinos, African and Asiatic Lions (from Gir to Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh in 1956), which show only 16% success rate in a study of 119 cases of translocated animals. In the rest of the cases, the animals returned causing major conflicts, dying or being killed by locals due to severe man-animal conflicts. Mehta said that even in case of captured leopards, they were released in areas similar to their earlier homes, but it was observed that the animals found their way to their original habitat.
Jalpesh Mehta and his team who carried out the analysis opine that the argument regarding an epidemic killing the entire populace of lion does not hold true as the lions are not concentrated in Gir alone, but have dispersed far and wide.“If an epidemic can kill all the lions, the same thing can happen to all the tigers in the MP-Rajasthan-Maharashtra belt and Karnataka-Kerala-Tamil Nadu belt as the distance in these areas is more or less similar to that between Gir and other areas where the lions are spread,” said Mehta.

The analysis also talks of the stress suffered by animals during capture and transfer to new locations apart from citing various cases of failed translocations particularly those concerning carnivores. It also mentions other problems associated with releasing an animal into a new location including predation, starvation and movement away from the actual release site.
“There was some success in translocation of rhinos in Assam. But then the one-horned rhinos are herbivores,” Mehta explained.

Apart from the above points the analysis has also made references to MP’s high incidence of poaching and Kuno-Palpur’s drought-prone status.
The NGO has already sent a copy of the analysis to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and the state forest department too.

(13) The Sunday Guardian : NGO seeks help in lions translocation, The NGO claims that the translocation would violate 29 guidelines set by IUCN
Tare, Kiran | 7 September 2013
http://www.sunday-guardian.com/news/ngo-seeks-help-in-lions-translocation

(14) The India Today : Modi, Chouhan continue sparring over translocation of lions
Chaturvedi, Devika | 4 September 2013
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/narendra-modi-translocation-of-asiatic-lions-asiatic-lion-gir-forests-kuno-palpur-sanctuary/1/305463.html

The frayed tempers between the Gujarat and the Madhya Pradesh government along with the judicial activism on the issue of the translocation of the Asiatic lion from its last abode in the Gir forests to the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in MP may not cool down anytime soon. The hard-hitting Supreme Court verdict on April 15 forced the Gujarat government to agree to the translocation in what had become a fight for state pride and resulted in much jarring between the two BJP-ruled states.

In retaliation, Gujarat government filed a review petition in May. Although the verdict on the petition was still pending a 12 member committee was formed by the ministry of forest and environment for the translocation of lions. The panel, which met in Delhi on July 29 for a maiden meeting, comprised pro-shifting experts Ravi Chellam and Y V Jhala who are the brains behind the translocation plan to decide on the number of lions to be shifted.

Gujarat government had put forth its arguments against the move but environmentalists slammed it by saying that the lions were being caught in a political tussle between Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

Significantly, the battle over the translocation had taken an ugly turn. Modi had refused to entertain the request of his MP counterpart Chouhan government to agree to the translocation. Many government officials and local activists in Gujarat questioned that is conserving the lion really MP’s aim or does it basically want to enhance its tourism?

Dineshgiri Goswami, green activist from Kodinar based Prakruti Nature Club, says “I do not think anybody is thinking about the lion but the battle is becoming more political. Forest officers appearing in court do not care for the lions.” Goswami threatened self-immolation if lions are shifted.
As a much needed boost to the Gujarat government, a Mumbai based NGO, Empower Foundation, presented a study on lion translocation. They stated that lions should not be translocated and be allowed to migrate naturally. The study also found that the Gujarat government has not powerfully positioned the fact that the lion habitat in Gujarat goes much beyond Gir.

Over a period of time lions have migrated naturally hundreds of kilometers away to places like Amreli, Savarkundla, Liliya Porbandar, Paniya, Mitiyala, Barda, Una, Chhara, Sutrapada, Babariya, Kodinar, Visavadar, Hipavadli, Jamvada, Jasadhar, Girnar, Bhavnagar and Palitana.
“The 1,412 sq km abode of Asiatic lions has now spread across 10,500 sq km, thus mitigating concentration risk in one area,” explained Jalpesh Mehta, founder chairman, Empower Foundation. Thus, the spread of an epidemic which was the primary argument of wildlife activists and biologists seeking translocation does not hold true, according to him.

One would not, however, undermine Gujarat’s valid concerns about the security of the lions in Madhya Pradesh. Asiatic lions are listed as endangered by the IUCN due to their small population. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, C.N.Pandey says, “Success of lion conservation in Gujarat may largely be attributed to the tolerant, friendly and supportive local people. This is missing at Kuno Palpur.”

Another major concern is that Madhya Pradesh is major poaching arena with a strong gun culture. According to several cases reported in the past the ‘tiger state’ lost its moniker when 453 tigers out of 710 (63% loss) were killed in last decade alone. The state as per the 2011 census has only 257 tigers left.

The loss of tiger in Madhya Pradesh was 50 per cent of the total loss of the tigers across the world. Palpur Kuno had 25 tigers earlier but reduced to a shameful figure of two in the present time. Sheopur district also has 4800 fire arm licenses for a population of six lakh. As these are licensed guns, one cannot assess the illegal fire arms present in the area.
Risks cannot be ruled out, but these risks must be taken considering the larger benefits for the species, feels Dr Rahul Kaul, Chief Ecologist, Wildlife Trust of India. He observes: “Long-term viability of lions or any other wildlife will benefit greatly if there are multiple populations. Restricting the animals to a single population, however big, can make them extremely vulnerable to stochastic extinctions.”

International Fund for Animal Welfare – Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI) has undertaken relocation of animals in the northeast India. “Working with the Assam Forest Department and Bodoland Territorial Council authorities, we have aided in reintroduction of rhinos in Manas after its entire population was wiped out during the civil unrest of 80s and 90s. With advancement of science and understanding, proper planning and effective implementation, the degree of success has increased and can be increased further. Anyway, in cases like these, the possibility of success must matter more than the fear of failure,” says Kaul.

Clearly in this battle MP has an upper hand but with the endangered animals at stake the issues may have become more political than ecological. And while one smile and the other sulks a species survival is at risk

(16) DNA : Mumbai NGO roars against translocation of Gir lions from Gujarat to MP
Goenka, Karishma | 17 December, 2013
http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-mumbai-ngo-roars-against-translocation-of-gir-lions-from-gujarat-to-mp-1936359

Last month, Mumbai NGO Empower Foundation wrote to a panel created to study and chart out translocation of Asiatic lions from Gir sanctuary in Gujarat to Kuno Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, asking them to stay the trans-location till various issues are not resolved.

The NGO has cited more than 29 violations of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines and other points why the trans-location plan might be a failure. They highlighted MP’s gun culture and rampant poaching that makes conditions adverse for lions.

“Madhya Pradesh constitutes about 50% of the world’s tiger poaching besides the risky co-existence of the lion and tiger makes it unsuitable for trans-location… Also, the expert panel does not consist of a lion specialist, only tiger experts. They should consult experts, maybe from Africa, to find out how lions might react to trans-location,” says Jalpesh Mehta, founder of Empower Foundation who has also written to the IUCN and Maneka Gandhi, seeking intervention.

The last census of 2010 recorded the population of Asiatic lions to 411. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court directed the MoEF to take steps to reintroduce the Gir lions in Kuno. A report by two senior members of the expert panel raised concerns on trans-location over tolerance of local communities in Kuno to man-animal conflicts might be lesser than Gujarat.

Experts say it is important to avoid concentration of a species in one place to eliminate risk of extinction from epidemics and natural calamities. “It is important to have a small number placed in a different area… Kuno sanctuary was our best option from many others. What we need now is the Madhya Pradesh government to come forward with assurances on how it will prepare for trans-location. We’ll discuss it at our next meeting,” said AJT Johnsingh, member of the expert panel and veteran biologist.

Empower Foundation and Leopards of SGNP

(16) TOI : Leopard kills boy, 6th death in 7 months
Baliga, Linah| 28 January 2013
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-01-28/mumbai/36595327_1_female-leopard-leopard-attack-sgnp

MUMBAI: A 10-year-old boy, Saurabh Yadav, was mauled to death by a leopard on Saturday at Adarsh Nagar in Aarey. This is the sixth death due to a leopard attack in Mumbai in the past seven months. Saurabh had gone to attend nature’s call with his friend around 7.30pm when the animal dragged him inside the forest. His friend started screaming for help. The police later recovered Saurabh’s mauled body.

“The area falls under Thane forest jurisdiction. There is a cheap paid public toilet, but locals invite trouble by squatting in the open. They also strew garbage around, which attracts pigs and dogs, easy prey for leopards,” said Santosh Saste, assistant conservator of forests (vigilance), Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).

The other big problem is that the national park boundary is patchy and not continuous, making people living in Aarey vulnerable to big cat attacks.

Jalpesh Mehta, founder, Empower Foundation, who has been working on SGNP’s man-animal conflict, said that early Saturday morning they got a call from tribals informing them that a female leopard was trapped inside Aarey Milk Colony’s Mataipada.

“It was a female leopard. We were told there was a male leopard roaring in the periphery of the area. We transported the female leopard to SGNP. Our team has been tracking it through its droppings, pug marks and regular information from locals. Even as we surmised that the leopards were in search of food, we got a call that a boy was attacked,” said Mehta.

Mehta said the only solution is co-existence wherein people will have to change their lifestyles by not venturing out in the forest at night for nature’s call and not dumping garbage on which dogs and pigs feed, thereby attracting leopards.

(17) TOI : Female leopard trapped in Aarey
Baliga, Linah| 28 January 2013
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-01-28/mumbai/36595889_1_female-leopard-leopard-attacks-sgnp

MUMBAI: Apart from locals squatting in the open and dumping garbage around the fringes of the national park, the other big problem is that the national park boundary is patchy and not continuous, making people living in Aarey vulnerable to leopard attacks.

Jalpesh Mehta, founder, Empower Foundation, who has been working on SGNP’s man-animal conflict, said that early Saturday morning they got a call from tribals informing them that a female leopard was trapped inside Aarey Milk Colony’s Mataipada.

“It was a female leopard. We were told there was a male leopard roaring in the periphery of the area. We transported the female leopard to SGNP. Our team had been tracking it through its droppings, pug marks and getting regular information from locals. Even as we surmised that the leopards were in search for food, we received a call that a boy was attacked,” said Mehta.

Mehta said the only solution is co-existence wherein people will have to change their lifestyles by not venturing out in the forest at night for nature’s call and not dump garbage on which dogs and pigs feed, thereby attracting leopards.

(18) Mumbai Mirror : Mumbai: Leopard kills 11-year-old boy in Aarey Colony
Virat Singh | 28 January 2013
http://www.mumbaimirror.com/mumbai/others/Mumbai-Leopard-kills-11-year-old-boy-in-Aarey-Colony/articleshow/18218638.cms

A leopard killed an 11-year-old boy in Aarey Milk Colony on Saturday night, the sixth fatality resulting from mananimal conflicts in the city since July 2012.
Saurabh Yadav, a primary student who lived in Adarsh Nagar, had stepped out to relieve himself at 7.45 pm when the leopard attacked him, dragging him into thick vegetation as his terrified friends ran for their life.

The incident occurred near a spot where forest officials had early on Saturday, at about 5 am, trapped a female leopard. Locals said that over the past few days they had spotted two wild cats moving together, and after the female leopard was caught, they heard growls Nagar, but locals go to fields to defecate.

This despite our warnings that it’s not safe to frequent fields after sunset,” the officer said. Jalpesh Mehta, founder of Empower Foundation that creates awareness on man-animal conflicts, said that people living near forested areas needed to change their lifestyle to prevent attacks.
“They have to learn how to co-exist,” he said. Asenior official from Sanjay Gandhi National Park said recent attacks had brought back memories of a two-year period, 2002-2004, when 60 people were killed by leopards.

“We have stepped up patrolling in the area, and trapped many leopards. Despite this, attacks have not stopped. We will speak to the BMC and Aarey Colony administration about proper management of garbage and controlling population of stray dogs,” he said. ard sightings — the city administration, the forest department and the police are yet to draw up a common plan to prevent such incidents. A police officer said locals were partly to blame for the problem. “There are public toilets in and around Adarsh late,” Bhagirathi said.

Majority of the leopard attacks in the past one year have taken place in Aarey Milk Colony. In the past three months, forest officials have trapped five leopards in the area. Despite repeated attacks — and increasing leopof its possible companion from the forested area. “All day we worried that the second leopard might attack us. Our worst fears came true at night when a leopard fatally mauled a boy,” said a resident of Khambyacha Pada.

Saurabh’s body was found not far from where he was attacked, said the Aarey Colony police, who rushed to the scene after receiving a call at 8.15 pm. “Saurabh was his parents’ only son; they still cannot believe that he is no more,” the boy’s uncle, Bhagirathi Yadav, said on Sunday.
“Usually, he used to take his mother along once it was dark. On Saturday night, however, he went to answer nature’s call with his two friends.” It was the two friends who alerted locals when the leopard pounced on Saurabh and dragged him away. “By the time we reached the spot, it was too

(19) DNA : Relieving in open near SGNP? Beware of the big cat
Shahkar Abidi | 18 January 2013
http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-relieving-in-open-near-sgnp-beware-of-the-big-cat-1789963

The forest department investigating the cases of man-animal conflict in and around Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) has stumbled upon an interesting fact: Leopards target preys that are around three-foot high. The authorities have pointed out that in most of the cases of death the victims were either children or adults sitting in the jungle to attend to their nature’s call. In the past six months, six deaths and 14 other cases of man-animal conflict were reported in and around SGNP.

“The leopard has an average eye level of three feet. In most of the cases that we investigated in the recent past, it was found that the victims were mainly children or people sitting to relieve themselves in the open,” said Santosh Saste, assistant conservator of forest (Vigilance), SGNP.

The authorities have now advised the tribals living inside the national park to avoid letting children alone or relieve themselves openly in the forest areas. A host of meetings of the forest officials, NGOs, Film City (Goregaon) authorities and tribals settled inside the national park were held recently to discuss the issue. Empower Foundation, an NGO working in this aspect and which organises such meetings, has even marked over a dozen spots where the leopards are usually seen and posted warning signs on them.

“Animals can never change their behaviour. Secondly, moving the tribals out of SGNP and rehabilitating them is a long-drawn process. Hence, reducing of man-animal conflict is the need of the hour,” said Jalpesh Mehta, founder, Empower Foundation.

(20) Outlook : Fear Stalks Mumbai Suburb – A spurt in leopard attacks leads to conspiracy theories and efforts for co-existence
Pinglay-Plumber, Prachi | 20 February 2013
https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/fear-stalks-mumbai-suburb/283984

A spurt in leopard attacks leads to conspiracy theories and efforts for co-existence.

A film set of Bharatpur railway junction stands in the middle of a cluster of huts, where people are moving around unhurriedly and children squatting to finish morning business. A child sitting on the side of a kachha road to answer nature’s call is too common a site to give it any second thoughts in Mumbai, as in most parts of this country.

However, at Khambyacha Pada in Aarey Colony in Mumbai it could spell serious trouble. Just few meters away a female leopard was trapped by the forest officials and locals earlier this month. It is one of the many padas or clusters that witnessed leopard attacks and frequent sighting of the big cat in the past few months. A child, Saurabh Yadav from adjoining Adarsh Nagar was killed when he was playing outside his house. The attack occurred just a day after a female leopard was trapped in Khambyacha Pada. Another leopard cub was trapped four days after the killing

Residents of these clusters surrounding the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, the only green lung of the city, are now oscillating between conspiracy theories of officials “purposely unleashing leopards” to adopting preventive measures for peaceful co-existence.

“I was saved just last week. I spotted a leopard in the middle of the road staring at me. We come home late from work and have no choice but to take this route,” said Laxmi Dhumale, adding that they never had trouble with the animals in the past. The region has witnessed at least seven deaths and other attacks and straying incidents in the past six months.
In an attempt to minimise man-animal conflict, the officials have removed nearly 3000 illegal structures and are planning to remove another 1500 from the national park that spreads over 100 km.

Although it may well be justified, activists worry that it may lead to negativity among the residents, which in turn may translate into a serious threat for the cat. The tribal population (their houses can still be identified because of Karvy fencing) is now mixed with the migrant population that works in nearby tabelas or in the city as manual labour. Officials say in the past five years the population has gone from a few hundred to at least 10,000 in the nearby clusters.

“Since they are illegal, no one seems to be taking responsibility for garbage disposal, which is leading to increase in the population of dogs and pigs. Anything below 3 ft of height, be it an animal, a child or a human answering nature’s call seems like a prey for the leopard and hence most of the attacks are on children and people going inside the forests to answer nature’s call. This and much more needs to change as you can’t change the leopards’ lifestyle,” says Jalpesh Mehta, Founder, Empower Foundation, an NGO that works on awareness and conservation of wildlife in Mumbai.

Leopard, a shy but ferocious animal, is said to move along the trails after sunset. It avoids bushes, as the belly of the big cat is very soft and susceptible to injuries. For a leopard catching a dog, pig or hen is much easier then chasing and killing a deer. As per records, there are 20-24 leopards in the 104-km national park and activists estimate another 10-12 in the peripheral areas of Aarey colony and film city which do not come under the park’s jurisdiction. There have been attacks of similar nature on the other sides of the park in similar padas near Bhandup.

Sangeeta Thorat, mother of Sanjana, who was killed by a leopard last year, says not just her children but even she is wary of going out in deserted areas near their residence. Her daughter was dragged by a leopard as she sat on atop a pipeline to answer nature’s call. Only her head was recovered. “People still venture during the day but we avoid after it gets dark. My children are extremely afraid of the leopard after what happened to their sister,” she said adding the civic authorities carried out garbage collection for a few days after the attack. She said the villagers put up a halogen light to scare away the leopard but that too does not work now. Villagers say the leopard continues to visit the area.

Activists and officials say apart from garbage and illegal encroachments, what is adding to the problem is concretisation in areas just outside of the national park, which ideally should be left as a buffer zone, because it is narrowing the corridor of movement.
“One has to identify the movement and keep the corridor free for the leopard. If there are large complexes with high concrete walls then the leopard remains in restricted area. Since ample food is available in the form of livestock and dogs, they procreate. Naturally at some point they will come in conflict with the residents. What we forget is if we keep the corridor free then the leopard will happily stay in the jungle and not bother us at all,” said Mitesh Panchal, a wild life activist. He added that trapping leopards and leaving them in the different habitat may not work because they are extremely loyal to their own territory which they mark by scratching the trees and urinating.

Shankar who works at the Royal Palms and lives in the tabela nearby says he and his friends spot a leopard more often than not. “We change our path if we see him at a distance. We carry torches, radios. He doesn’t bother us but we have to be careful. I think they live nearby only and not in the jungle.”

Keeping the leopard in the jungle is not only good for our safety but also for maintaining the food chain. As the ‘apex animal’ of the food chain, having a healthy population of leopards ensures proportionate growth of animals such as deer, rabbit, right down to the green cover.

“Indian society is different from the western societies which have eliminated carnivores from the vicinity of human settlements. We have chosen to safeguard and co-exist with them. However, it is imperative to take precautions and know how to live with them such as not going alone in the deserted areas after sundown, carrying a torch etc.,” said Praveen Pardesi, principal secretary, forests.

Echoes wildlife expert Vidya Athreya, who researched extensively on man-animal conflict. “Even if there may be issues of illegal encroachments, as long as they are living there, the issues of garbage collection and availability of toilets need to be resolved. This is a much larger issue than just creating awareness and may be the local corporators and politicians need to get involved.”

One is not sure how serious the local politicians may be about this. In the meanwhile, the torn posters of awareness camps conducted in the film city recently, perhaps indicate that locals need to get more serious about their own safety.

(21) GlobalPost USA : India: Leopards stalk Bollywood -Leopards living in the heart of Mumbai have mauled or killed more than 100 people over the past decade
Overdorf, Jason| 20 March 2013
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/130319/indian-leopards-bollywood-wildlife-poaching

MUMBAI, India — Swetha Paghe, 50 years old, was crouching in the pitch dark when the leopard came for her this November.
The beast swiftly silenced her screams and dragged her from her slum colony on the outskirts of Mumbai into the scrub forest along the borders of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Her fellow villagers quickly formed a search party and set off for the hills. But by the time they found her, she was dead.

“Every day of your life, whether you’re eating, drinking, or going outside, you’re always wondering [if the leopard is going to come],” said Dilip Navsha Paghe, Swetha’s 30-year-old son.“Now we don’t let the kids out of our sight at night,” said Paghe, who has three small boys.

Residents of Aarey Milk Colony and other communities that border the national park have good reason to be afraid of the dark. Over the past decade, the leopards that stalk Bollywood have mauled or killed more than 100 people — even straying onto the studio lots of nearby Film City.
But local news stories of bloodthirsty maneaters obscure an all too familiar reality: India’s notorious civic failures, not Mumbai’s leopards, are to blame for the killings. And, until recently, forest officials’ response to the problem was actually making it worse.

Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a 100 square kilometer “wilderness” surrounded on three sides by a teeming megalopolis. Nearly 30 times the size of New York’s Central Park, with a core area that is off-limits to ordinary citizens, the park is home to at least 21 leopards, according to a recent study.
But as many as a million tribal people and migrant laborers live in and around the urban wilderness. And because these communities have been ignored and neglected by the government, their settlements have actually spurred an increase in the leopard population and drawn the animals into the city, rather than driving them deeper into the forest.

“Nowhere else in the world will you see so much wildlife and so many people [living together],” said wildlife biologist Vidya Athreya, who led a yearlong research project on human-leopard conflict that involved the Maharashtra forest department, the Bangalore-based Center for Wildlife Studies and a civil society group called Mumbaikars for Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

“In America, all their wolves have been killed off. They’re reintroducing them, and people are scared. In Europe, they have 20 people per square kilometer, and they don’t want even one wolf per 100 square kilometers. In India, we kill [our dangerous animals], we poach them, and all that. But we don’t think that they all should be wiped out. That’s not there in our philosophy.”
Can that philosophy survive? Maybe. Certain tribal groups who have resided in the vicinity for centuries are permitted to build huts and gather firewood on the outskirts of the forest and even inside the park.

However, neither the city, nor state, nor central government has been able to stop migrant laborers from moving in illegally. And nobody provides the battery of services that is needed to prevent the leopard population explosion and protect people from their wild neighbors.

There is no garbage pickup and no plans to provide it, so the villages and slums attract legions of stray dogs. Fat and boisterous, these dogs have replaced the fleet deer and shy wild pigs to become the leopards’ primary food source. There are no street lights, no sewers, and no toilets, so to relieve themselves children and women like Swetha Paghe must squat in the dark near the rubbish heap — where leopards mistake them for their dogs, or settle for them, just the same.
“We tell the people, we meet the corporators, we tell the administration,” said Sunil Limaye, the forest official in charge of the park. “Everybody says, ‘Yes, we will do it.’ But nobody does it. That is clearly the problem.”

The result is that there are a whopping 57 dogs per square kilometer in the park region, according to the Mumbaikars for Sanjay Gandhi National Park study. The strays have not only lured the leopards to the forest’s outskirts, but also spurred a concurrent population boom among the big cats. Using camera traps and spot-patterns to identify individuals, researchers found that the park is home to nearly twice the number of leopards that would be found in a more isolated forest.
“We found 12 females, six males, and three individuals which we couldn’t identify [by sex], so a minimum of 21 individuals in Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Aarey Milk Colony, which is an area of about 120 square kilometers,” said the Center for Wildlife Studies’ Athreya. “Each female leopard needs 10 square kilometers of territory, so by that account we should only have had 12 [leopards].”
“The density of large cats is totally dependent on prey. The more prey you have, the more [predator] animals you have.”

Until city and forest officials find a way to collect garbage and cull the area’s stray dogs, the hope for local residents and conservationists is that a greater density of leopards doesn’t necessarily mean more leopard attacks. Athreya argues that leopard attacks spiked between 2000 and 2004 (including 84 attacks in two years alone) primarily because widespread panic forced forest officials to trap and relocate supposed problem animals — mostly by dropping them deeper into the park itself.

“Any leopard seen anywhere, its home was Sanjay Gandhi National Park, by our definition,” Athreya said. “That was what used to happen until 2005. Leopards rescued in Nashik, leopards rescued in Pune … were all sent into Sanjay Gandhi National Park. We thought that was the right thing to do.”
Instead of removing a threat, however, the relocations opened up a territorial vacuum for new leopards to move in. So attacks continued wherever a leopard was removed. Meanwhile, the relocated leopards grew more aggressive in targeting human habitations since they were thrown into ranges already occupied by hostile rivals. Or they just made their way back home, sometimes traversing hundreds of kilometers to get there.

“Everybody thinks trapping is the solution,” Athreya said. “But it actually worsens the problem.”Since the forest department realized that relocation should only be used as a last resort — removing animals that have actually attacked people — the frequency of attacks has gone down dramatically. At the height of the relocation craze, between 2002 and 2004, there were some 84 leopard attacks in the area, an average of 28 a year. Between 2005 and 2010, the average number of attacks plunged to two per year.

But a dramatic increase in the human population has resulted in another spike in attacks — including seven fatal maulings in 2012 and several more this year. The number of people living inside the park has ballooned from a few hundred to at least 10,000 over the past five years, according to Jalpesh Mehta, whose non-profit Empower Foundation works with these communities. And with every attack, the forest department faces more pressure from local residents and the politicians who represent them to set traps and relocate animals.

Understandably, tempers run hot. On the night forest officials captured the leopard believed to have dragged away 50-year-old Swetha Paghe, angry villagers armed themselves with iron rods, knives and cleavers to try to prevent the wildlife rescue team from taking the animal away. Only with the help of police, and after a long negotiation, could forest officials and volunteers get the leopard out.
“People feel that we care more about the animals than we do about the people,” said Pawan S. Sharma, a volunteer who helped with the rescue. “Sometimes people say, ‘You are waiting for something to happen, and only then you will act.’”

(22) TOI : Tigress, 2 cubs sighted in Dang: NGO
Kaushik, Himanshu | tnn | Jan 30, 2018, 06:53 IST
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/tigress-2-cubs-sighted-in-dang-ngo/articleshow/62701780.cms?from=mdr

AHMEDABAD: Even as the tiger census is scheduled to take place in Gujarat in February after a long hiatus since 1992, an NGO involved in tiger conservation — Empower Foundation — after its survey which concluded last week, reported, “there is a very fair probability of the presence of tiger or tigress along with two cubs the region of Dang in south Gujarat.”

The findings along with statement of locals has been sent to PCCF Gujarat and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). Jalpesh Mehta, the chairman of the foundation said, “There has been increased sightings in the last 1.5 years with locals saying tiger sightings happen within a range of one week to four months.”

“Two years ago, there were no such sightings,” Mehta said.
The forest department, however, is sceptical of the report. G K Sinha, principal chief conservator of forests said, “We have requested NTCA to carry out the census scheduled in February. The census will be conducted following all protocols required of a tiger census and the only after that will the department get a real picture.” Sinha added, “Three officials have already been trained for the census.”
The report by the NGO further mentioned that locals were able to identify broadly the sizes of three animals and prima there is no confusion whether the sightings were of leopards and not tigers. Some locals said tigers have been present in the area for ages, though even till two years ago, there were almost no sightings of the big cat. The report submitted to PCCF and NTCA further states that the tribals are well aware of the difference between a tiger and a leopard. They have acknowledged tiger sightings for last 1-2 years and were able to show the size of the animal by their hands the report mentioned.

Empower Foundation and Aarey Forests

(23) Mid-Day : MMRCL Starts Soil Testing At Aarey Colony Despite Stay Order
Correspondent | April 2, 2017
https://www.mid-day.com/articles/mmrcl-starts-soil-testing-at-aarey-colony-despite-stay-order-mumbai-news/18128175

Aarey activists lodge complaint against corporation for violating National Green Tribunal orders; plan to launch protest if this continues

Despite the National Green Tribunal’s stay order on the metro construction at Aarey Colony, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) has started soil testing work under the no-construction zone. A written complaint was registered on Saturday with the Aarey Police station against the corporation for violating NGT norms.

Around 50 members from citizen groups and NGOs like Vanshakti, Empower Foundation, Save Aarey and Conserve Aarey met on Saturday to discuss the matter. Twenty members from tabela/Sector 19 were also present. “The proposal by the government to convert Aarey from no-development zone to metro shed/commercial zone hasn’t yet been sanctioned. No work of any nature including soil testing work is permitted in the land,” reads the complaint submitted by the members.

Activists claim that although the NGT judge had denied permission to MMRCL lawyers from carrying out the soil test on three occasions, they continued with the activity with the help of police protection.

If the MMRCL continues with the activity, the members plan to launch a fast to protest the move. “The date and venue has been finalised yet, but if the government or police don’t act on it, we will start protest with fasting,” said Jalpesh Mehta, wildlife conservationist from Empower Foundation. Soil testing is an investigation conducted prior construction to test the suitability of soil. “We also plan to include more youth in the movement as it is about the future of the city. We will soon write an open letter to the Chief Minister seeking his help to save Aarey,” he said

(24) Mumbai Mirror : Keeping Aarey Green: Citizens to start talks with Japanese govt
Baliga, Linah| Updated: May 4, 2017
https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/civic/keeping-aarey-green-citizens-to-start-talks-with-japanese-govt/articleshow/58505786.cms

Volunteers rally together for last ditch attempt to stop construction of Metro III car shed.
How can citizens take on the might of the government for a cause they consider dear? A bunch of people, who are determined to save Aarey Colony’s forest cover, are showing the way.

After two years of concerted effort to prevent the construction of the Metro III car shed in Aarey Colony, several citizens from across Mumbai are now preparing for a last ditch attempt that will see them talk to the Japanese government. Jalpesh Mehta, a member of the Save Aarey movement, said that the group aims to get in touch with Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) with the help of the Japanese embassy to apprise the funding agency about the environmental impact of the project on Aarey. Save Aarey is currently in the process of hiring a Japanese translator and talking to NGOs in Japan.

“They should know about the real loss of trees, forest and rivers due to this project,” said Mehta. People from across Mumbai, and Thane and Vashi have contributed about Rs 6 lakh in a bid to protect the city’s green lung. The money has been used to fight a case filed with the National Green Tribunal in 2015, following an appeal that was made to declare Aarey a forest. HR professional Amrita Bhattacharya is one among many who have chipped in with time, effort and money.

“I’m in this for a selfish reason, and I want to protect the future of my family and my friends. Without Aarey’s green cover, Mumbai’s future is doomed. This movement is alive because of the support of citizens not just from Mumbai but even Thane,” said Bhattacharya. Another lady, who was out of a job for over two years, contributed Rs 50,000 from her salary as soon as she found a job, said D Stalin, who heads the NGO Vanashakti. “This is heartening, and a lot of people are helping us fight back. There are obstacles, of course. Bankers who wanted to help were warned by their banks not to voice their concerns on Aarey,” said Stalin.

Like Bhattacharya, architect Priya Mishra, too, has been in the thick of things. Mishra, who contributed Rs 1 lakh, brought her son along for a hearing on the tree-cutting issue in Aarey at the high court yesterday. “Since Mishra is an architect, she is helping the Save Aarey team figure out development plan maps and the developmental control regulations,” said Stalin. Other members of the group at the forefront of taking on the state include Avlokita Shah, 29, who handles social media.

“There is a group dedicated only for court hearings. There are many heroes emerging from this movement. It has helped citizens from suburbs connect with South Mumbai. Even Cuffe Parade residents want to help us,” said Biju Augustine of the Save Aarey movement.

(25) DNA : Toddler urges CM to save Aarey forests, through a video
Virat A Singh | Updated: Apr 16, 2017, 07:40 AM IST
http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-toddler-urges-cm-to-save-aarey-forests-through-a-video-2403500/amp

Adopting a new approach to oppose the ongoing construction work inside Aarey Colony, a nature lover has initiated a video campaign involving his two and half-year-old son, who is seen saying, ‘CM uncle, please save Aarey’.

The campaign is the brainchild of 38-year-old Jalpesh Mehta, who also runs Empower Foundation, an NGO working on environmental awareness. The one-minute video features his son Arjun, who talks about how the animals of the forest would lose their natural habitat if the construction work continued.

Mehta says that while pleas by adults seem to have fallen on deaf ears, requests from a child might not go unheard.

The one-minute video features his son Arjun, who talks about how the animals of the forest would lose their natural habitat if the construction work continued.

“Despite so many activists and NGOs coming together to save Aarey, which is the last freely accessible green lung of the city, the government seems determined to build a car shed there. It saddened me; hence I thought that may be the Chief Minister would take cognizance of a child’s request,” said Mehta, who also tweeted the video to the CM.

The video, parts of which have been shot in Aarey, apart from informing about the rich biodiversity of Aarey, also clarifies that the people aren’t against development, but saving the environment is also crucial. Mehta has been in talks with the Aarey Conservation Group members, to collaborate and make a series of such video campaigns. “We are also planning to get our children to seek the help of the children of ministers — not only the daughter of our Chief Minister but also of other Ministers — by sending them postcards, which will request them to save Aarey forests for the future generation,” he said.

Stalin D, Director, Projects, NGO Vanashakti, said that the campaign showed how every citizen was trying to do their bit to save Aarey. “At least through this campaign, the children and teenagers of Mumbai will know that they and their parents tried their best to save the forest and if there is any destruction of the green cover inside Aarey, only the government can be blamed,” Mehta said.

(26) Mumbai Live : CM Uncle Save Aarey Please!
Hanvate, Mangal | April 17, 2018
https://www.mumbailive.com/en/civic/cm-uncle-please-save-aarey-10422

Mumbai – A message is viral on social nowadays in which a two and half years boy has made an appeal to CM Devendra Fadnavis to save Aarey. In this video, Arjun Mehta who is just two and half years old has raised a question to the Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis asking that if people start making their habitat in a forest then where will the animals, birds of many various species go? And also requested CM uncle to Save Aarey. Arjun Mehta’s father Jalpesh Mehta is an environment lover. Mehta is working with an NGO named Empowerment Foundation for a better environment for many years. Jalpesh Mehta said that if nature is disturbed then the coming generation will face many problems. The video is of one-minute duration and around 1.5 lakh people have viewed it so far

In this initiative along with Arjun Mehta and Jalpesh Mehta now even college students have taken parts. 40 Students of KC College and Hindu College have conducted a street play on Saturday near NCPA and Hotel Intercontinental and tried to spread awareness message of ‘Save Aarey’ to Mumbaikars. Now college youth have joined Arjun Mehta with this initiative of ‘Save Aarey’.

(27) Mumbai Mirror : MMRC did not reveal the full eco damage from Metro shed
Linah Baliga | June 6, 2017
https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/civic/save-aarey-shiv-senas-aaditya-thackeray-strengthens-battle-to-save-trees-from-mumbai-metro-shed/articleshow/59053823.cms

Environmentalists take their concerns over Aarey to Metro III’s Japanese funder
NGO tells JICA that Metro implementing agency’s environment impact assessment report distorted facts

With a proposed Metro car shed at Aarey Colony railroading con cerns that it will shat ter the green sanc tuary’s ecological balance, environmentalists under the save Aarey banner have told the rail’s Japanese sponsor that it has deliberately not been apprised of the full extent of the construction’s impact by the project executor.

Empower Foundation, a non-profit which is part of the Save Aarey movement, has handed a report to the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) alleging that the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRC) has presented a distorted picture of the underground rail’s impact on ecology in Aarey to get it off the ground.

The NGO alleges that MMRC has underreported the number of trees that will need to be axed, shown only a fraction of the actual land required for construction; and altogether excluded fauna from its environmental im pact study submitted to JICA.

JICA has loaned Rs 13,235 crore to MMRC to cover 57 per cent of the project cost. The NGO is banking on the funding agency’s pro-environment stance to pressure MMRC to shift the car shed from Aarey.

In its report submitted to the JICA offices in New Delhi and Japan that review environmental and social impact of projects, Empower Foundation contested the claims made in the MMRC report.
While MMRC earlier planned to hack 1,652 trees in Aarey, the number has shot up 47 per cent to 2,430 trees, while the tally of trees to be cut in the entire city stands at 5,012, the NGO’s report claims.

The environmental impact assessment report is meant to cover ecology at large, but MMRC has restricted it to trees, air, water, soil and noise, and chosen to ignore the rich biodiversity of fauna in Aarey forest, which is equally important, said Mehta, chairperson of Empower Foundation.
Aarey is home to 76 species of birds, 16 kinds of mammals including leopards, rusty spotted cat and jungle cat, 13 species of amphibians, 38 species of reptiles, 19 spider species, 34 types of wildflowers, and eight species of butterflies. All of thisd, Mehta said, have been neglected from the study.

Another anomaly the NGO pointed out to JICA is the land needed to build the shed. From the original 30 hectares, the requirement was expanded to 65, and now a total of 165 hectares is set to lose its reservation as an eco-sensitive zone, the NGO’s report says.

Besides, the environmental impact assessment report mentions Mahalaxmi and Kalina as alternative sites for the car shed, but these options haven’t been explored, the report said, urging JICA to intervene and strike off the Aarey site in favour of the other options.
Going on with the shed at Aarey would grossly violate JICA’s environment policies in their home country and risk their international reputation, said Mehta.

“Their country is pro-environment as a whole, so the firm would look at the lapses regarding Aarey’s wildlife and the number of trees to be hacked,“ said Mehta.

Procedure followed:
MMRC Responding to the allegations, an MMRC spokesperson said the land the state handed over to MMRC “is not forestland and MMRC carried out Environment Impact Assessment by following due procedure.“

He further said: “Our original land requirement was 30 hectares. We have further optimised it to 25 ha and retained as many trees as possible. The eco-sensitive zone jurisdiction has been decided by the competent authority following due legal process.

(28) TOI : Aarey facts hidden for Metro, NGO informs Japanese lender
TNN | Updated: Jul 5, 2017
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/aarey-facts-hidden-for-metro-ngo-informs-japanese-lender/articleshow/59454021.cms

MUMBAI: Even as the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) gears up to construct the Metro-III car shed and station at Aarey , Empower Foundation, a city-based non-governmental organisation, has written to the project’s Japanese funding agency against misrepresentation of Aarey facts.

Empower Foundation, which works to create awareness about wildlife, has complained to the Japan International Co-operation Agency’s Environment and Social Consideration Review division that MMRCL made several misrepresentations on Aarey in its Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Report, that was submitted for a loan for the project. JICA has approved a loan of Rs 13,325 crore, which is 57% of the project’s cost.

The NGO said MMRCL blatantly misrepresented and downplayed the presence of wildlife in Aarey , thus fooling the Japanese government.While MMRCL in its EIA said the project site is located in a city area and no wildlife is envisaged, the NGO pointed out that Aarey houses 76 species of birds, 80 species of butterflies, 16 species of mammals, 38 species of reptiles and nine leopards beside 4 lakh trees.

MMRCL had further claimed that the alignment of the metro rail is in the city area and does not pass through any forest.Hence no loss of forest cover is anticipated. It also said a maintenance depot with full workshop facilities have been proposed at Aarey and no wildlife has been observed at the depot site. Jalpesh Mehta, founder of the NGO, said JICA was kept in the dark about Aarey’s bio-diversity.

The dairy development department, in its 2016 submission before the National Green Tribunal, declined permission to Reliance Infrastructure Ltd to lay cables on the ground stating that portion of Aarey Colony is on forest land and permission from the forest department was necessary . “There are leopard attacks every year yet MMRCL chose not to highlight these,“ said Mehta. He added land required for the Metro car shed was initially cited as 20.82 hectares, JICA was told about 26 hectares, now 165 hectares of Aarey has been excluded from the eco-sensitive zone.

The NGO urged JICA, as financial partner, should ensure other options for the car shed are looked into. MMRCL did not respond to TOI’s queries.

(29) Mumbai Mirror : Save Aarey: Shiv Sena’s Aaditya Thackeray strengthens battle to save trees from Mumbai Metro shed | June 8, 2017
https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/civic/save-aarey-shiv-senas-aaditya-thackeray-strengthens-battle-to-save-trees-from-mumbai-metro-shed/articleshow/59053823.cms

Even with strong opposition, the green Samaritans of the city couldn’t manage to make the state government throw their axes. The bandwagon of Aarey supporters, however, has a new, stronger voice now. Shiv Sena supremo’s son and Yuva sena chief Aaditya Thackeray emerged strongly and openly in the battle of environmentalists and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis-led government.

The youth leader took to twitter to ridicule the state for their plans of chopping thousands on trees in Aarey Milk Colony, Goregaon, in a bid to construct a shed for Mumbai Metro III line.

“Yesterday, Shiv Sena led Improvement Committee rejected proposal to change reservation of Non Development Zone in Aarey to Metro workshop.”
In full-fledged Sena furore, Thackeray junior stated that Mumbai won’t be bullied into giving up Aarey for Metro Depot Workshop, by cutting its trees, when there are alternatives available.

“I fully support the public transportation need for a Metro. It’s been made by the previous govt as well. But to damage Aarey is ridiculous,” he added.

In a detailed report on June 6, Mirror informed its readers that Empower Foundation, a non-profit which is part of the Save Aarey movement, has handed a report to the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) alleging that the Mumbai MetroRail Corporation Limited (MMRC) has presented a distorted picture of the underground rail’s impact on ecology in Aarey to get it off the ground.

The NGO alleged that MMRC had under-reported the number of trees that will need to be axed, shown only a fraction of the actual land required for construction; and altogether excluded fauna from its environmental impact study submitted to JICA, the report explained.

Echoing similar sentiments, Aaditya said, “How ridiculous is it to justify damaging a forest by saying public transport will save environment. Damage is same.”

“While on one hand Centre speaks of Paris Agreement and our commitment to fighting climate change, locally we damage Aarey forest. I wonder if our statements on climate change are for headlines and social media only. Metro Corp can still save Aarey rather than bully all,” he concluded.

Notably, Aarey is home to 76 species of birds, 16 kinds of mammals including leopards, rusty spotted cat and jungle cat, 13 species of amphibians, 38 species of reptiles, 19 spider species, 34 types of wildflowers, and eight species of butterflies. This is not the first time Thackeray junior has supported the cause of Aarey, but his voice will strengthen those who are fighting to save Mumbai’s vanishing green spaces