Work on Rs 121 cr Jamboo Zoo project stalled as Govt refuses CAMPA funds

Work abandoned on Jamboo Zoo project near Jagti on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway. -Excelsior/Rakesh
Work abandoned on Jamboo Zoo project near Jagti on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway. -Excelsior/Rakesh

Just Rs 13 cr spent, fate of project ‘uncertain’
Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, May 17: Work on prestigious Jamboo Zoo project worth over Rs 121 crore has been stalled as the Government has refused funding to this ‘Jammu centric’ project on the plea that CAMPA funds can’t be made available for the creation of Zoo.
This Important project which was conceived by the former Forest Minister Ch Lal Singh and whose foundation was also laid by him in Sept 2016 on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway near IIT Complex Jagti (Nagrota), is likely to meet the `premature death’ as since the suspension of work on this project in March 2018, no much interest has been shown by those at the helm of affairs in the State Forest Department and in the Governor’s Administration.
Some officials in the State Wildlife Protection Department have expressed their apprehensions that the fate of this important project seems `uncertain’ due to Government apathy. They say that Rs 13 crore hard earned money of the tax payers, spent so far on this national level Zoo Project, is likely to go down the drain with the negative attitude of some people in the State Administration. With no more hope left for the revival of this Zoo project, the State may lose expected revenue worth over Rs 8 to 10 crores per annum from this Zoo project, if it turns into realty.
Official sources told `the Excelsior’ that in the last State level Steering Committee meeting of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management & Planning (CAMPA) chaired by the Chief Secretary during early 2018, it was decided that as per the revised guidelines of the CAMPA issued by the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment, the CAMPA funds can not be provided to establish Zoo. With this rider, the State Government stopped funding to the project and all the works came to `grinding halt’ on this project in March 2018.
Sources revealed that in September 2016 when its foundation was laid, a two years time was accorded for the completion of this project. About five engineering including an Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) were sent on deputation to Wildlife department for this dedicated project at Jagti. A Mumbai based consultancy was hired for the plan layout of the project and allied works. During first year, the work went on with great pace and a tall wall and gate at main entrance with parking space for more than 100 vehicles was created. The work on acquiring and fencing over 169 acres of area of Zoo was started and nearly completed. The work on about 3.5 kms circular road for plying electric cars/ visitors was also started and earth work on about 2 kms stretch was also completed besides raising large water tank at the hill top. The work on public cafeteria near Parking site was also nearing completion.
Sources further said that after Lal Singh resigned as Forest Minister over Rasana case controversy, the then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti after few weeks visited the Zoo at Jagti along with Divisional Commissioner Jammu, Secretary Forest and some other top officers. She gave instructions to lower down the proposed height of the Zoo wall and also sought some changes in the project plan. The height of the front wall, was asked to be reduced from 70 ft to its nearly half. But after some time, the PDP-BJP Government was also gone. It was proposed to have large paintings with lighting system on the fore wall depicting Zoo animals and rich Dogra heritage. But it appeared that the project was deliberately sabotaged by some anti-Jammu forces, the sources added.
Regional Wildlife Warden, Jammu Tahir Shawl when contacted said that at present, the work on the project has been suspended for want of funds. He said after March 2018, no funds were provided by the Government and most of the allied works of the Zoo have been stopped. When asked for the reason, he disclosed that as per revised CAMPA guidelines of the Union Ministry of Forests and Environment and directions from the State level Steering Committee on CAMPA, the funding to Zoo have been stopped. The other means for funding are being explored by the Government, he added.
“We have written to the Government to provide funds. In this connection, the Commissioner/ Secretary Forests MK Dwivedi and Advisior K Vijay Kumar had also visited the Zoo site recently. They took review of the works. We are hopeful that Government would provide funds from other heads for the completion of work on this project,” Shawl said.
Replying to a question, Mr Shawl said it was decided to keep over 36 species of animals and scores of birds species in the Zoo. Three ponds have also proposed to be created to keep water birds here. He said there is paucity of space in Manda Wildlife park for keeping animals. It is just rehabilitation centre at Manda. The department was exploring possibility of creating some larger space for animals for the last three decades. Three sites were identified and later Central Zoo Authority of India team selected this site on NH near Jagti.
Besides Leopards, White tiger, Lions, Bear, Samber deer, Jackal, Spotted deer, Goral, Black buck, Fox, Barking deer, Hog deer, Antelope, Langur, Wild boar, Water fowls, Storks, Cranes and Pelicans, a scores of species are proposed to be kept in this world class zoo, Shawl maintained.
He said from Manda Wildlife Park of Jammu, a revenue to the tune of Rs 42 lakhs was generated last year by the department. Here only school children visit and the ticket is just Rs 10 for adults and Rs 5 for children. If full fledged Zoo is created at Jagti, Government can generate huge revenue. Moreover, it is located on National Highway and over one crore Mata Vaishnodevi pilgrims visit every year to the shrine and pass through this road. If hardly 25 % of them visit this Zoo, it will generate huge revenue for the Government. Amarnath Yatra also passes through this highway.
Chief Wildlife Warden, J&K, S K Gupta when contacted said that Government has asked to prepare separate DPR for the remaining part of project so that funds could be generated. He disclosed that a DPR in two phases has been prepared to manage funds. Rs 62.41 crore DPR for Phase -I has been submitted to the Government and for Phase-II another DPR worth Rs 58.59 crore is proposed to be submitted for this project. The Advisor is taking keen interest in resumption of work on this Zoo and if the funds are made available the work will be resumed on the project shortly, he added.