Mount Abu: wildlife sanctuary

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Mount Abu: wildlife sanctuary

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Mount Abu shuts down in protest

By The Times of India, 18 Nov, 2006

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JODHPUR: Villagers living in and around Mount Abu are up in arms after the entire tourist destination was notified as a wildlife sanctuary on October 4. The resentment is so strong that for the last five days all the shops in Mount Abu and surrounding villages remained closed.

Sirohi collector S K Mittal issued the notification declaring the entire Mount Abu as a forest zone. "This is like turning Mount Abu into Jammu and Kashmir," Jyoti Mukherji, a local BJP leader, told TOI.

People of adjoining villages like Oriya, Achalgarh, Arna, Hetamji, Shergaon and Utraj are also participating in the agitation.

The bandh is causing huge problems for tourists. "We went there for fun but returned immediately as no shop was open," said Sunita of Jodhpur. "We are taken by surprise as we couldn't enter the town after sunset," said Niveditta Rampal, a tourist.

The protesters on Friday submitted a memorandum to the governor demanding withdrawal of the notification. "We are completely against this and will not withdraw agitation till the notification is taken back," said Jyoti.

Mount Abu was declared a sanctuary in 1960 but a notification to this effect was issued in 1997. As per the practice, after each notification the government invites objections.

But in this case, objections were suddenly invited, Sunil Acharya, former chairman of Mount Abu municipal corporation, told TOI.In government record right from Guru Shikhar, the highest peak of Abu to Taletti, the bottom part of the Abu hill, has been shown as sanctuary, said Acharya.

"We fear that the entire town would come under the purview of forest department and all we want is that the town should be left out from the notification," Jyoti said.

Residents of the tourist destination are scared that once the notification becomes effective they will either be told to move out of the town or may have to face many restrictions including commercial ones if allowed to stay.

The collector said it is difficult to explain the fallout of the notification. But, he said, the clear picture will emerge only after some time when the administration will decide how to settle claims and compensation package.

In neighbouring Gujarat, political parties and people are protesting against the Rajsthan government's move, which, they see, is an attempt to prevent Gujaratis from carrying out commercial activities.

On the other hand, people of Mount Abu fear that once the notification becomes effective, they would forfeit the right to sell their property. Nobody would also be allowed to move in the night, said Acharya.

State minister for forest and environment Laxmi Narayan Dave told TOI, "We have to lose something to protect the environment."

Abu Bachao Samiti said being a municipal area the hill station has to be excluded from the sanctuary. "Some part of Abu is already a sanctuary so why begin this new drama?" asked Rajeev.

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