Keoladeo acts to end water woes in birds’ paradise (With Images)

September 24th, 2008 - 11:46 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 24 (IANS) The Planning Commission is considering a project to supply 350-million cubic feet of water per year to help protect the wetlands in Rajasthan’s Keoladeo National Park, a World Heritage Site that has been hit by recurrent water crises in the past.The project is one of the many activities that have been drawn up to restore the park to its past glory, a senior official said.

Keoladeo’s wetlands attract migratory birds from Europe and Asia during winter. Birds from other parts of India also visit.

The Gobardhan drain, located 25 km from the sanctuary, will be linked via a canal to be dug under the project, estimated at Rs.640 million.

“Water from Gobardhan drain will supplement the current water supplies to the park. Alternatively, other sources are being explored to ensure continuous water supply,” Rajesh Gupta, assistant conservator of forests and research officer of the park, told IANS.

“Around 550 billion cubic feet of water is required to sustain the park’s wetlands,” he said, adding: “The Planning Commission’s approval is due any time now.”

In the past, vast swatches of wetlands have been turning into woodlands due to water shortage. Ample rainfall this year has revitalised the wetlands again, attracting birds for nesting.

The park currently receives water from Pachna dam in the neighbouring Karauli district, some 120 km from the reserve.

“Water from the reservoir was supplied (to the park) twice this year between July 16-23 and Aug 9-23. About 80-90 percent of the water requirement has been met,” he said.

Spread across 29 sq. km., Keoladeo’s sensitive wetland ecosystems need water to replenish.

Many birds have already assembled this year in the wetlands to spend the cold season.

An eco-development project that is now underway in the park would be expanded further to cover other activities.

Around 15-20 committees, involving local people, have been formed to undertake conservation projects.

People are engaged to uproot Prosopis zulifora, a plant species in the park that sucks in huge amounts of underground water, causing imbalance in the water table.

Seeds of these plants germinate in marshlands where water has dried. In submerged areas seeds die. The problem is more serious in dry season as winds help spread the seeds to other areas, Gupta said.

Efforts are also on to bring water to the park from the Chambal river through the Chiksana canal that will supply 60-75 million cubic feet of water.

Besides, the quantity of water from Gobardhan drain to the park can be increased in the future if required, he said.

The sanctuary was declared a National Park in 1981. Migratory birds like the Siberian crane, ruddy shelduck, red-crested pochard, marsh harrier, among others, come here during winter.

The intermingling of thousands of these birds on the wetlands makes for a spectacular site to behold.

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