Lucknow: Lion Safari the dream project of Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav which was shelved by the previous Mayawati regime is now being revived by the new Uttar Pradesh government.

The project, which was mooted in 2005 in Yadav's native village of Saifai in Etawah district, was put on the back burner under Mayawati government but with SP back at the helm of the affairs, state forest department has started working on it again.

"The work has started again on the Lion Safari project to be set up at 50 acres of Fischer forest area. The permission in this regard has been taken from the Central Zoo Authority (CZA). Now we are preparing a master-plan for the project and get it approved," Principal Forest Conservator J S Asthana said.

The cost of opening the safari in the home district of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was Rs 20 crore in 2005 but has escalated now and would be worked out soon. The CZA has put certain conditions for final approval of the project and work is underway to fulfil them, he said.

About the conditions, Ashthana said that CSA had asked the department to first establish a breeding centre for lions so that those brought from outside could be mated here and only the new-borns were left in the safari so that they can adapt the conditions.

"We are completing formalities in this regard," he said.

The Asiatic lions, which are facing a serious threat of extinction, would be given natural breeding atmosphere in the proposed safari in Saifai nestled between the Yamuna and Chambal rivers.

These royal beasts were found roaming in south-western Asia and northern India barely 200 years ago and are now confined to a small pocket in Gir forest reserve of Gujarat only, Forest department officials said.

This lion safari in Safai would be a special kind of zoo where the Asiatic lion would be kept for breeding so that the threat of their extinction could be minimised.

Etawah district, officials say, had a remarkable similarity of temperature and humidity, vegetation, ruggedness of the terrain with the Gir protected area that would help in breeding them.

The Yadav's pocketborough already has an airstrip, a grand stadium cum sports complex and a state-of-the-art hospital on the lines of the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow and with the opening of Lion Safari it is likely to emerge as a popular tourist destination, officers involved in the project said.

(Agencies)