Rajasthan wildlife sanctuaries in troubled waters

By Anil Sharma, IANS
Saturday, April 10, 2010

JAIPUR - Soaring temperatures have made water so hard to come by in Rajasthan’s sanctuaries that wild animals are straying into nearby villages in search of it and migratory birds are giving the area a miss.

India’s desert state boasts of two tiger projects, one bird sanctuary and 25 wildlife sanctuaries, besides 32 closed areas for animals. These protected areas offer great eco-tourism opportunities for both domestic and foreign tourists.

Animal rights activists are not fully convinced with the forest department’s plan for proper water supply through tankers and tubewells.

“Some of the wildlife reserves and parks are facing an acute water shortage this summer,” Babulal Jaju, the state incharge of People for Animals (PFA), told IANS.

He said measures adopted by the state government were few.

Due to the heat wave, several small water reservoirs have become parched while others are on the brink of drying up.

“Can tankers ease the crisis? The animals need water not only for drinking but also for playing and bathing. The state government should have tried to make better arrangements earlier so that the animals don’t suffer,” Jaju said.

The anicut and small ponds in the Dara wildlife sanctuary near Kota in Rajasthan have dried up, forcing animals to search for water in villages.

“We are always in danger as wild animals, including panthers, have started coming to our villages in search of water,” said Nanuram, a resident of Laximipura village close to the sanctuary area.

There is a rise in the number of panthers straying into villages, he said. Recently, a panther was beaten to death in Bhojipura village near the sanctuary.

The Dara sanctuary is spread over an area of 265 sq km between two parallel mountains — Mukundara and Gagrola. The fauna of the region primarily comprises panthers, hyenas, langurs, cheetals, sambhars and bears.

The Keoladeo Ghana bird sanctuary, as the Bharatpur sanctuary is now called, is also facing a similar water crisis.

The alarming water shortage in the sanctuary, not far from Agra, has taken its toll on the turnout of the winged migratory visitors. The sanctuary was a favourite destination for a variety of rare birds from India and abroad.

Bird watchers from around the world visit the sanctuary to watch the spectacular jamboree of rare birds such as Siberian cranes and ducks, pelicans, geese, shanks, wagtails, larks and pipits from October to February.

But due to water scarcity, the bird sanctuary that used to attract over 300 species of birds earlier wore a deserted look this time.

A large part of the water bodies in the sanctuary have turned into dry land. The entire area had been receiving scanty rainfall for the last couple of years but things turned miserable last year.

The state government has decided to lay a 16-km pipeline from the Govardhan drain to supply 350 million cubic feet of floodwaters to Keoladeo Ghana.

(Anil Sharma can be contacted at anil.s@ians.in)

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