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Keoladeo National Park faces survival threat

Times of India, New Delhi, October 6, 2014

 

After spending crores in the name of reviving Keoladeo National Park Bharatpur (KNP), the situation is still as dismal as it was when it began. Recently, the Open Billed Storks that came to Keoladeo National Park, commenced breeding and since they were unable to find any food, they abandoned nest and flew back. However, a few days later when water from the Chambal started trickling in, hoping it would bring in some fish, they came back and began nesting. But with deficit rain in the region and lack of food and water it's unlikely they will stay. A Ramsar site, a World Heritage Site and a water fowl refuge of international repute, KNP faces continuous threats for its survival due to absence of flowing water, which was traditionally received from the Gambhir river that went dry more than a decade ago owing to construction of Panchana Dam in Karauli district.

 

So now the river only flows when Panchana dam over flows, which happened only thrice in the past 12 years. With water bodies around the park drying up, no fish to feed, no nests to be raised, KNP is in for a catastrophe. The Open Billed Storks, Painted Storks and other birds that feed on fish are expected to abandon the park after a few weeks when the present stock of prevailing smaller fish and frogs will ultimately finish. "The park management's single action, carried out couple of months ago, has added fuel to the fire. Nearly 30 truck loads of invasive fish were removed from the park and villagers were allowed to come in and collect the fish. In the process, not only invasive fish was siphoned out but the fish meant for birds were also removed," said Harsh Vardhan, honorary secretary, Tourism & Wildlife Society of India. Ironically, after spending Rs 52 crore on the 17-km-long pipeline from Goverdhan Drain to augment flowing water to the park, the park hasn't received a drop of water.

 

Alternatively, out of 62 mcf (million cubic feet) pipeline water from Chambal, the KNP so far has received only 40 mcf water. There is 2 mt less water in Panchana Dam and Goverdhan drain owing to less rain has no water. "As much as 8 to 10 sq km area of the total 29 sq km area of the park should remain submerged to 3 to 4 feet to kick-start post-monsoon cycle of its aquatic ecology which has not been happening for more than a decade," said Harsh Vardhan. For the maintenance of the wetland eco-system in KNP ideally about 550 million cubic feet water is required between July to October because this is the breeding season of most of the birds. Unesco also notes that failing in restoring adequate water supply appears to have adversely affected the property's bird population which are the basis of its inscription on the List of World Heritage.

 

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that if the above water management infrastructure projects are not rapidly finalised, the property may soon meet the requirements for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger. "It would be in the interest of the park to get water from the Panchana Dam as soon as possible. We did not get any water from Goverdhan drain or Panchana dam and due to deficit rain there isn't sufficient water in the park and nearby water sources that gave water to the park are also dry. We only have approximately 60 to 70 mcf in the park in D and B blocks," said Khyati Mathur, DFO, Bharatpur.