Move to reserve share for Keoladeo Park from Panchna dam

Water woes of the celebrated bird sanctuary, Keoladeo National Park (KNP), Bharatpur, may come to an end soon if the Rajasthan Government accepts a recommendation from the State's Board for Wildlife to reserve a share of water from the Panchana dam in the neighbouring Karauli district. The natural flow of water to the 29-sq-km sanctuary, a unique wetland declared a heritage site by the UNESCO, remains blocked after the Gambhiri River was dammed at Panchana a few years back.

Since 2004, the park has been facing severe water shortage after opposition by local farmers to the release of water to the park which is the nesting and breeding ground for a large number of birds.

Though a series of steps, including construction of a canal – Govardhan drain – to carry the flood waters of the Yamuna during the monsoon period to the park and channelizing waters from the Chambal, are underway, experts say that only an assured supply of water from a source like Panchana would mitigate the water shortage of the park.

So far work on 1 km of the Govardhan drain was complete and on a daily basis 150 metre area is being covered, State's Additional Chief Secretary for Environment and Forests V. S. Singh informed the Standing Committee meeting of the State's Board for Wildlife presided over by Minister for Environment and Forests Ramlal Jat here the other day. The Centre has sanctioned Rs.50.67 crore for the project. Yet, even die hard optimists do not dream of getting the drain ready to catch the flood waters of the Yamuna in the current monsoon.

Water released last year

In the year 2010, following the intervention of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, 200 million cubic feet (MCFT) water was released from the Panchana dam for the park. The first meeting of the Board for Wildlife, presided over by Mr. Gehlot that year, had also favourably considered ensuring a share of the Panchana dam water for KNP as it was against norms of natural justice that the water which used to flow down to the Bharatpur region and the park was dammed.

The recommendation from the Standing Committee is for an annual commitment of 200 MCFT water from Panchana and for providing an additional 62.5 MCFT from the drinking water project for Bharatpur for which the source would be the Chambal River. As such KNP needs 550 MCFT water a year while its availability had remained an average 300 MCFT for the past 11 years.

The Standing Committee also has recommended expanding the area of the Taal Chapar Blackbuck sanctuary in Churu district by acquiring 1257.56 hectares of land of the three adjoining villages – Surwas, Devani and Beed Chapar – under Section 18 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Taal Chapar spread over an area of 719 hectares, often witnesses over crowding of the Blackbucks.

“The sanctuary is small and during the rainy season the animals face acute problem of space as the area gets inundated,” Dr. Singh pointed out.

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