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The Gujarat High Court today sought explanation from the Centre and the state government on a plan to set up new tourist zone in the Gir Asiatic lions sanctuary.

The court took up the issue as a suo motu PIL.

The division bench comprising justices Akil Kureshi and J B Pardiwala served notices to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) and the state government’s forest department in the PIL, which demanded that the area be declared as a ‘critical habitat zone’.

The court also directed the Gujarat government to file a status report on developmental and construction activities in the Gir Lions sanctuary elaborating whether those activities are permissible under provisions of the law.

The bench asked details of private properties constructed in the sanctuary and directed the district collector of Gir-Somnath to file a reply.

The issue surfaced after a ‘whistleblower’ made a detailed application to the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice, last month, stating that the Gujarat government has proposed a new tourist zone in the south-east area of the Gir sanctuary.

It was contended in the application that the south- east area should be declared as a ‘critical wild-life zone’ instead of proposing a new tourist zone.

There is already a tourist zone in Gir Asiatic lions sanctuary and due to this encroachment of developmental activities, the ecology of the area has incurred a loss, the application said.

The Gujarat High Court has taken up the issue as a suo motu PIL and initiated proceedings.

After issuing notices to all respondents, the court posted the matter for further hearing on October 16.

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