In 2014, the Wildlife Department of the State conceived the idea of establishing a zoo in Jammu to improve entertainment for the citizens and to add to tourism interests and economy. An area of 3200 kanals of land in Khanpur area of Nagrota tehsil was identified for the purpose. After completion of land acquisition formalities, the Wildlife Department approached the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) with the Detailed Project Report (DPR). The CZA gave its nod to the plan which envisaged a total expenditure of Rs. 77 crore with features like eco-park, wildlife enclosures, bird sanctuary with large number of species from the world around, herbal park, cafeterias, facilities of public utilities, parking spots and other things which are available in the national level zoos across the country.
After obtaining the feasibility certificate from CZA, which is mandatory, the Wildlife Department began looking for the funds and was able to obtain about Rs. 1.7 crore from the Forest Department’s own resources. Only some minor work could be done with this small amount and the Department was now groping in the dark about the remaining amount which, however, was not forthcoming from any source. The Finance Department declined to provide the amount.
While the struggle for raising funds was going on furtively in the Wildlife Department, there was something strange to happen in the meanwhile. The State Forest Department decided to revise the plan that had already received clearance from the CZA and now proposed 5,000 kanals instead of 3200 kanals. The revised plan added certain new features which raised expenditure costs to Rs. 120 crore. Accordingly, the Wildlife Department submitted the revised plan to the CZA but failed to obtain the necessary clearance.
Refusal of the CZA to accord sanction to the revised plan notwithstanding, the State Forest Minister took the decision of going ahead with the project proposing to provide finances from the Department and also diverting funds from some other heads. However, on the ground, the fact is that the Finance Department has declined to provide Rs. 120 crore for the project in two consecutive financial years. Moreover, the idea of diverting funds from other heads of expenditure, too, has fallen through as rules would not allow it. What then is the status of the Jambu Zoo (Shivalik Biological Park) when the Finance Department has declined to fund it, 14th Financial Commission’s approval is doubtful and diverting of funds from other heads is disallowed? Obviously, this seems a project in quandary where authorities are unable to say what would be its fate in absence of proper funding.