Good times ahead for Keoladeo birds with completion of Govardhan pipeline

Sunny Sebastian
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The water woes of the celebrated park have come to an end

The Govardhan drain pipeline bringing flood waters to the Keoladeo National Park near Bharatpur in Rajasthan.— Photo: Special Arrangement
The Govardhan drain pipeline bringing flood waters to the Keoladeo National Park near Bharatpur in Rajasthan.— Photo: Special Arrangement

The birds of Keoladeo have perhaps never had it so good! The water woes of the celebrated Keoladeo National Park, listed as a heritage site by UNESCO, have come to an end with the completion of the 17.10-km-long dedicated pipeline on the Govardhan drain.

The much awaited Rs.56-crore drain project, taken up with funds provided by the Planning Commission under Additional Central Assistance (ACA) to Rajasthan, was formally completed this weekend. This Saturday saw the first flush of rain water from the canal entering the F 1 and F 2 blocs of the park. As the electrification of the pumping station is yet to be completed a generator was used to pump water, which heralded a new era in park history.

“This is a momentous occasion for bird-lovers and conservationists. The absence of a guaranteed source of water for the park all these years had been posing a serious threat to the very existence of the marshland as well as its status as a world heritage site,” Rajasthan Minister for Forests & Environment Bina Kak told The Hindu .

“We thank the Centre. The support it extended through sufficient funds would surely register in the annals of conservation history,” Ms. Kak noted.

Though the monsoon season has come to an end, the glass-reinforced plastic and mild steel pipeline, bringing the flood waters from neighbouring Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to parts of Rajasthan, is still expected to provide 30 million cubic feet (MCFT) to 40 MCFT water.

“The park is finally getting its due. The impact of water on the birds will be seen during the coming winter,” said conservationist Harsh Vardhan, who has been crusading for Keoladeo for long.

The Govardhan drain originates in Haryana, enters Rajasthan at Santruk village in Bharatpur district after winding its way through Uttar Pradesh. The seasonal water body finally drains out near Agra. It is estimated that during 35 days in the monsoon, the Govardhan drain pipeline can provide 350 MCFT water. “A dedicated pipeline was thought about in the wake of the bitter experience of farmers en route the canals elsewhere demanding a share of water,” noted Chief Conservation of Forests P.S. Somasekhar, who was in charge of the park in 2009 when the idea was first mooted.

The park had three to four extremely bad years between 2006 and 2009. “We were desperate for an assured water source other than Panchna dam. During these years, Rs.10 lakh on an average was spent on diesel for pumping sub-soil water to the depressions in the park in order to keep the fauna and vegetation alive,” Mr. Somasekhar observed.

Keoladeo, a place graced by the rare Siberian cranes till the turn of the Century, has been twice lucky with water this year. Only recently it started getting 62.5 MCFT water brought to Bharatpur town for drinking purposes from the Chambal river. For fully inundating its marshes — as it was during the golden days — where the heronry breeds during winter and keeping of boats for the tourists afloat, it needs a minimum of 450 MCFT water. With these two sources and a share from the contentious Panchna dam, the park now can expect to have its good times returning!



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