Lucknow: An ambitious project by the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to start a lion safari in his hometown of Safai in Etawah has now hit a green hurdle. The regional office of the Environment Ministry has issued a showcause notice, stopping all construction till the project gets all green clearances.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has asked his government to flatten and develop a 50-hectare patch of forest for enclosures for lions that will be kept in cages and the entire area is being developed for a safari to attract tourists.
However, the environmentalists are now questioning as to what will be the conservation value of the project, that involves getting zoo bred animals and doesn't help protect any lion populations in the wild, or the existing ecology of the region.
Etawah incidentally is home to the largest populations of the Sarus cranes in the world, as well as the endangered Gharial in the Chambal Sanctuary, yet no funds have been allocated for their protection.
"There is a clear disconnect in our conservation policy. I am not in favour of it. We should be putting our money into conserving the Sarus and the wetlands of Etawah. Why the lions when they were never even found there?" said Valmik Thapar, an environmentalist.
In 2006, Akhilesh Yadav's father Mulayam Singh had also courted controversy with his pet project to construct an airport on the habitat of the Sarus in Etawah. The project was finally stopped because of protests by green activists.
Akhilesh Yadav's project has already generated its own controversy. The regional office of Environment Ministry has issued a showcause notice asking if the project has all green clearances. Oddly enough, the Environment Ministry in Delhi denies having issued any such notice. The question now is if this project will see the light of day.