Published On : Thu, May 25th, 2017

Zoo Woe : 12 years on, Gorewada Zoo gets green signal!


Nagpur: At last you can see some concrete happening on Gorewada Zoo front. After more than 12 years, decks have been cleared for construction of curtailed Gorewada International Zoo with Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) granting clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 to 79.07 hectares, which is 15% of the total 564 hectares where all attractions will come.

Of the 564 hectares, for which forest diversion was sought for zoo items, 25 hectares already houses a rescue centre, quarters and administrative block.

This is for the third time that the project has been curtailed. Initially, the international level zoo was to come up in 850 hectares at the cost of Rs760 crores. Owing to huge cost, it was curtailed to 564 hectares for Rs 451.35 crore. Though proposal for forest clearance for 564 hectares was sent, FAC gave clearance to that much area where construction activity will change land use.

However, principal secretary (forest) Vikas Kharge said, “The proposal area has not been curtailed. As a special case, forest clearance has been granted for specific area where land use will change.”
The Maharashtra government had decided to develop the zoo on December 12, 2005. It was handed over to Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) on November 29, 2011.

Among all other financial and technical hurdles, forest clearance was one of the biggest, which has now been cleared. FAC, country’s topmost body under the MoEFCC granting forest clearances, recommended the proposal on April 25.

However, FAC has restricted the diversion of forest area for non-forestry activities to 79.07 hectares only, which is 15% of the total 564 hectares forest land for which clearance was sought by FDCM.

According to sources, FAC considered zoo as an ancillary activity to forest and wildlife protection and hence limited 79.07 hectare area only for non-forestry activities. FAC felt that the proposal involves both forestry and non-forestry activities. The non-forest activities will permanently change land use. It seems the FAC has gone an extra mile to clear the project, especially after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis himself pursued the proposal with Delhi.

Forest sources said with less forest land diversion now, net present value (NPV) will be charged for 15% area only. The state had requested for exemption of NPV and compensatory afforestation (CA) payment which has been brought down drastically.

“This will not only save government money but also stop project cost escalation,” they added.
Gorewada forest falls under Eco-class III and the vegetation density from 0.2 to 0.6. For such areas, NPV & CA cost would have come to roughly Rs120 crore for 564 hectares. However, FCA has said NPV for 15% of the area diverted will be charged bringing the cost to Rs20 crore.

The FAC has also said that CA shall be raised on zudpi jungle area equivalent area to 30% (170 hectares) of the total area of 564 hectares sought for diversion. The afforestation will be taken up on zudpi jungle land in Nagpur, Wardha and Bhandara forest divisions.

Now as per the new land use plan, actual 79.07 hectare area to be disforested for Indian Safari will be (6.37ha), African Safari (4.55ha), Biopark (12.59ha), Trails (5.01ha), Bird Aviaries (3.59ha), Water Reservoir (28.03ha), Entry Plaza & Children Park (12.19ha), other activity (6.29ha) and rescue centre (0.45ha).

Earlier, the same entertainments were to come up in total 564ha area. “However, now actual land use area to be disforested which has been considered is 79.07 hectares,” said sources.

Actually speaking, rescue centre has already been constructed three years ago in 25 hectares without taking FCA clearance and its area has been included in 564 hectares sought for diversion. But in the FCA recommendation, the area of diversion for rescue centre has been shown as 0.45 hectare.

On Tuesday, considering that FAC clearance has been granted, Fadnavis took a review of Gorewada and directed FDCM to start work on Indian Safari and Night Safari and set a fresh target of 2018.

Sources said FDCM has already shortlisted Kolhapur-based firm to construct Indian Safari. Now it will be a formality to issue work order to the company along with copy of FCA clearance.