The Environment Ministry's ambitious plan to ‘re-introduce' the cheetah in Rajasthan has hit a roadblock because of protests by the locals after a “disinformation campaign” and Union Evironment Minister Jairam Ramesh has now decided to shift the project to Madhya Pradesh.

Cheetah, the only mammal to become extinct in India in the last 1000 years, will be brought from South Africa and 12 of them will be introduced in Madhya Pradesh.

Mr. Ramesh told PTI on Tuesday that the locals were being fed with wrong information about the project by a leading oil and gas exploration company. “A company called Focus Energy Ltd, which is engaging in oil and gas exploration in the region, has done a lot of disinformation campaign and a lot of people have become very restive about this issue,” said the Minister.

A reaction from the company could not be obtained as repeated efforts to reach the spokesman were unsuccessful.

Mr. Ramesh said he felt Jaisalmer was the best site suited for re-introduction of the fastest animal but the Rajasthan government was not agreeing because of protest by the local people.

He said he tried to explain to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot that oil and gas exploration could be done even if the cheetah was introduced there and the area would not be declared a national park or a sanctuary.

“But he [Gehlot] is a little hesitant because of a lot of local political opposition to it,” said Mr. Ramesh who visited the State last week in an effort to persuade the government there. Now, Madhya Pradesh is going to be the first option as Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan had given a “commitment” and was “very very keen” on the project, he said.

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