PM should head Gir lions project: Nathwani

Vadodara: Group president of Reliance Industries Ltd and MP Parimal Nathwani has demanded that the `Gir Lions Project` should be headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Nathwani, president of the Vadodara Stock Exchange Limited, has also demanded that the Asiatic lion should be made the national animal, replacing the tiger.

"It is a high time that a the Gir lions project be headed by not less than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the lines of the `Project Tiger`," Nathwani told PTI over phone on Tuesday.

"I met Union Minister of State for Environment and Forest Jayanti Natarajan and discussed the matter with her," he said.

Nathwani said that according to Natarajan, the Bengal tiger continues to be the national animal as there is no proposal under consideration to replace it with the Asiatic lion.

Nathwani added that the cause of the Gir lions is close to his heart and he would continue to take it up to appropriate level. He said that he has requested the government to set aside more funds for the cause.

The Planning Commission has given an in-principle approval to a project for `Conservation of Asiatic lion in Greater Gir Region` to be implemented by Government of Gujarat over a period of five years at a cost of Rs 262.36 crore, which includes Centre`s assistance of Rs 236.63 crore.

According to estimates, there are around 411 Asiatic lions in Gir National Park and other areas of Greater Gir as per the last Gir lions census conducted in April 2010.