February 25, 2009 12:31:09 am
Over 35,000 wetland birds visited Bharatpurs Keoladeo National Park in January 2009,following a heavy monsoon in 2008,as per the latest bird census. Last year,only 5,000 birds visited the park. The difference in the number of winged visitors to Keoladeo,a UNESCO World Heritage Site,explains the dependence of the park on the mood of the monsoon.
This may not be the case any more.
The Planning Commission has released Rs 56 crore to lay a 17-km-long pipeline,linking the monsoon-fed Goverdhan drain to the Koeladeo National Park. The pipeline work,which will be carried out by the Rajasthan Irrigation Department,should be complete in 17 months.
The problem of lack of water at Keoladeo,recognised as one of the most important stops for migratory birds from Siberia and Central Asia,started in the 90s when a second dam,Panchana,was built on the Gambhir river,which floods during the monsoon and is a main source of water to the Koeladeo National Park.
The height of the Panchana dam was increased from the already existing Ajan dam to cater to the irrigation demands of farmers in the nearby areas.
This led to depleting water
level at Koeladeo,which directly affected the number of birds
visiting the park.
By 2002,the celebrated,endangered Siberian crane had stopped visiting the park. This raised concerns whether Keoladeo would continue to hold the world heritage site status. Former chief minister Vasundhara Raje accused the Centre of playing politics over water meant for Rajasthan.
In 2007,the Special Empowered Committee (SEC) for Environment and Forests in Rajasthan formulated a plan to lay a pipeline exclusively for Keoladeo. Our experts prepared a feasibility report on how to bring water to the park from Goverdhan drain, said Rajpal Singh,member of the SEC.
We approached the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and the Ministry of Environment and Forests for the project but finally the Planning Commission came to our rescue. A team from the panel visited the park and based on their report,Rs 56 crore was sanctioned for the pipeline, he said.
Between July and August,the peak monsoon period,the Goverdhan flood drain gets over 2000 million cubic feet (mcft) of water. Keoladeo requires only around 550 mcft of water. The construction of the pipeline from Goverdhan to Keoladeo will be a permanent solution to the water crisis in the park, said Anoop K R,Director,Keoladeo park.
An extraordinarily heavy monsoon in north India last season resulted in a huge number of migratory birds flocking the national park this year.
The 35,000 birds that visited the park included 500 each of migratory bar-headed geese and greylag geese,both of which come from Central Asia. Also 30 common cranes from the Siberian region,1,000 pintailed ducks and 5,000 common teals visited the park.
However,the most-awaited Siberian crane still stayed away.
Will it ever come back to India? Keoladeo is holding its breath.
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