Planning Commission may give funds for Bharatpur birds

Happy days ahead: A Night Heron in breeding plumage perched on the branch of an acacia tree at Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur

Happy days ahead: A Night Heron in breeding plumage perched on the branch of an acacia tree at Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur  

Special Correspondent

JAIPUR: Even as the Rajasthan Government is reticent about funds for Keoladeo National Park’s water needs, the Planning Commission seemingly has come to the rescue of the much acclaimed bird haven in Bharatpur, listed as a heritage site and Ramsar wetland. The monsoon birds may have to do with the available water this season, too, but the Centre’s nod for a proposal pertaining to the 100-km-long Govardhan Canal to collect the Yamuna floodwaters from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan is considered an affirmative step.

The good news from the Planning Commission came in a letter to Rajasthan Chief Secretary D. C. Samant suggesting that the Rs.65-crore project could be taken up for special funding. The letter came in response to a proposal in this regard forwarded by Mr. Samant in May.

The project — one among the many proposed for ensuring a regular water supply to the park — entails diversion of water during the monsoon through an underground pipeline of 16 km with lifting arrangements and finally draining the water into the park at Bhinsa Mori, at a distance of 80 km from the canal-head.

The initiative is “keeping in view the uniqueness of the eco-system and the capacity of the National Park to attract a variety of migratory birds and need for water supply,” said a letter from Indrani Chandrasekharan, Adviser (Environment and Forests), Planning Commission. To hold further discussions with the State authorities, Dr. Chandrasekharan is scheduled to visit Keoladeo Park next week along with R. B. Lal, Inspector General (Wildlife), Union Ministry of Forests and Environment, and Professor S. C. Saxena of IIT, Roorkee.

“Finally the Centre has woken up to our cries,” notes seasoned bird-watcher Harsh Vardhan, who is leading a “Save Keoladeo” campaign to protect the marshes threatened with changes in the ecological character in the absence of water.

“The Govardhan Canal proposal was first mooted by the State authorities 15 months back but nothing happened though they talked about tying up with NABARD for funds,” he points out.

“We should tap all the sources when it comes to arranging water for Keoladeo,” observes Abhijeet Ghose, Rajasthan’s Principal Chief Conservator for Forests. “The response from the Planning Commission is very encouraging. We are hopeful of a positive outcome,” he says.

Dr. Ghose feels that with the initial amount of Rs.15 crore for the canal work promised by the Rajasthan Government a week ago, the department could start floating tenders for the project soon.

Perhaps Keoladeo Park needs all the help from all the sources — both in funding and in sourcing water. There is cautious optimism among the bird lovers about a normal breeding season this time as the park has already received 65 m. cubic feet water through the Chiksana canal, a monsoon drain harnessed the previous year. “The entire E Block is full while the D Block too is inundated,” observes Mr. Vardhan, who could click a Night Heron (see picture) in its breeding plumes perched on an acacia tree in the heronry area of the park.

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