Supreme Court notice on water release for Park

JAIPUR, MARCH 11. The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Government of Rajasthan on the issue of release of water to the Keoladeo Ghana National Park near Bharatpur.

The notice by the three member Special Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice Sabarwal, Justice Pasayat and Justice Kapadia, follows the submission of a report today by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), constituted by the court to look into matters related to environment.

The 20-page report, submitted to the court by Harish Salve, senior advocate and amicus curiae, had sought immediate intervention on the part of the court in releasing water to the Park.

"The KN Park is like a ghost of what it was two years ago...the Gambhir river is the only source of water to this Park and about 550 million cubic feet water is required to it between July and October annually,'' the report said.

The CEC prepared the report after a receiving a petition from Harsh Vardhan, honorary general secretary of the Tourism and Wildlife Society of India, seeking Supreme Court intervention in ensuring the release of water from the Panchna dam in Karauli district to the K.N. Park.

The CEC chairman, P.V. Jayakrishna, and Mahendra Vyas, member, had visited the Keoladeo Ghana Park a week ago to meet the officials and to interact with the public and other stakeholders. The other members of the CEC, member secretary, M.K. Jiwrajka and Valmik Thapar, a leading wildlife expert, too had various rounds of hearings on the subject during the past three months.

The CEC report emphasised on the "absolute'' necessity of the water from the Panchna dam for the "survival'' of the Park. "The various alternatives being considered (by the State Government) will not serve any purpose in rejuvenating and maintaining the wetland eco-system of the Park,'' it said.

The report warned that any delay in a decision to release adequate water (550 million cubic feet) would be tantamount to writing the "obituary'' of the Park.

The human needs should not be overlooked but preserving natural heritage was of paramount importance, the report, which suggested next release of water by July, said. It highlighted the aquatic ecology of the Park and noted the wide media coverage on the sorry state of affairs there at national and international levels.

"Any shortage of water -- regular flooding and flushing -- would lead to severe damage of this wetland,'' the report told the Supreme Court. "It is now a dry degraded woodland with rapidly expanding Prosopis juliflora enveloping the Park,'' it said.