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Reviving Bharatpur bird sanctuary

Alarmed by the absence of birds and tourists at the bird sanctuary in Bharatpur, the Rajasthan Govt has decided to act on a pipeline that will bring water to the famous but now dry national park.

india Updated: Nov 14, 2007 10:54 IST

Alarmed by the absence of birds and tourists at the bird sanctuary in Bharatpur, the state government has decided to act on a pipeline that will bring water to the famous but now dry national park.

In the wake of water shortage caused by scant rainfall in the area, the Keoladeo Ghana National Park, as it is officially known, has lost much of its charm. But the state government now hopes to revive it through an Rs 6 billion project.

Surplus water from the Yamuna River that flows into the Goverdhan drain will be brought to the sanctuary through a 19-km-long pipeline. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) is expected to finance the project.

"We are planning to bring water from the Goverdhan drain by laying a pipeline that will be supplying 350 million cubic feet {MCFT} of water to this sanctuary," Rajasthan's Forest Minister LN Dave told IANS.

He said that the project has been handed over to the irrigation department, which he said has invited bids for it.

Over 500 MCFT water is annually required in the Bharatpur sanctuary and of this 350 MCFT would come through the proposed pipeline.

The bird sanctuary, once home to over 300 species of birds including openbills, spoonbills, egrets, cormorants, white ibis, harriers, fishing eagles, kingfishers and local and Siberian cranes is now attracting only around 50-80 species.

Consequently, the number of tourists has been falling too.

In 2005 as many as 87,427 Indian tourists visited Bharatpur while foreigners numbered 24,052. In 2006, this figure went down to 70,140 Indian tourists and 20,145 foreigners and during the first nine months this year, only 18,010 domestic and 9,797 foreign tourists had turned up till Sep 30, 2007.

The forest department too has started weeding out the 'vilayati babul' (Prosopis Juliflora), a plant that has spread very fast in the 28.72 sq km sanctuary to the detriment of other plant species.

Officials here say they plan to make the entire sanctuary free of the plant in the next two years.

"The forest department is doing the right thing by weeding out vilayati babul as it has started affecting the growth of other tress like kadamb and neem," said Naresh Kadyan, chairman of People for Animals (PFA), Haryana.

The Keoladeo Ghana National Park, or the Bharatpur bird sanctuary, was artificially created in the 19th century by erecting small dykes and dams and diverting water from an irrigation canal into this low-lying area to serve as a game reserve for the Maharaja of Bharatpur who would hunt wild fowl here.