FOREST DEPARTMENT’S experiment of releasing gharials in river after captive rearing has failed. The number of gharials in Chambal has gone down drastically from 1279 in 1997 to 530 as per the latest survey. Till now 3782 gharials have been released in Chambal since 1976.
One of the main causes for the survey has been the lackadaisical attitude of the Union and State governments on keeping a tab on the released gharials. There was no survey of gharials released in the rivers from 1997 to 2003 and even the aid to the Gharial project was stalled on the pretext that there was no need for any further aid as there were enough gharials. Ironically, gharials has been named as the critically endangered species and has its mention in IUCN Red Data Book.
“The decline in number is alarming,” admitted the surveyor of the forest department D Basu. Attributing the causes for the decline of gharials in Chambal and other rivers, Basu said that farming on the banks of the rivers, sand mining mafias and illegal fishing were the main causes. Sand mining has destroyed the nests of gharials.
It took over 20 years for captive breeding of the gharials from 175 in 1976 to 1279 in 2003. “It seems that the effort has gone waste,” he added. The upstream Chambal river is spread across three states Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh for about 425 kilometres. Another reason according to Basu was the lack of coordination between the governments of the three states.
Geruva, Son, Betwa are the other rivers where the gharials have been released after captive breeding. “Here too there has been decline in numbers,” said Basu.
Some 800 gharials have been released in Geruva. “Gharials are found only in India and Nepal,” informed Basu and further added that the captive breeding of the animal was started from 1976 when the gharial population was a scarcely 300 in the world. “It was one among the three crocodile species present in India,” he said. Fresh water, marshy water gharials are the other two species found in India.