Activists raise concerns over plan for zoo inside Rajasthan sanctuary
The Rajasthan Forest department admitted that there is a proposal to build a zoo in Bharatpur but not in the national park.
Images of heavy earth moving machinery inside Bharatpur’s Keoladeo National Sanctuary, and reports that a zoo was being built inside one of the country’s birding hotspots has angered wildlife enthusiasts and activists. Bharatpur is a World Heritage Site.
The Rajasthan Forest department admitted that there is a proposal to build a zoo in Bharatpur but not in the national park. ““In view of the people’s demand there is a plan to build a zoological garden in Bharatpur but it’s just a proposal and is at a preliminary stage,” said Rajasthan’s head of forest (HoF), DN Pandey, without elaborating where the demand is coming from.
He added that the proposal can be finalised only after it is approved by the Central Zoo Authority, the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the union government. A second official familiar with the development said a zoo is being planned in the pasture-cum-conservation area near Deeg-Kumher , about 28 km away from the sanctuary.
Bird watchers and wildlife activists have been up in arms ever since photographs of bulldozers being used to dig ground in Bharatpur went viral on the social media and have started an online petition to save the sanctuary.
“Work has already started and JCBs are working the whole day until 5pm. This is causing a lot of damage to the whole sanctuary. We need to stop this,” the petition said.
Birder Ranvir Sikarwar¸ who is also a resident of Bharatpur, said the JCBs have been deployed in the park at a time when it is hosting a large number of winter migrants from Europe and Central Asia. “The digging will damage the vegetation and constructing enclosures will disturb the natural atmosphere.”
Forest department officials, however, claimed that the on-going work in the sanctuary was for developing diggis’ (water bodies) in the buffer zone . “The diggis’ are being developed to ensure that wildlife gets clean water. These water bodies will be used to conduct research on quality of water coming from four sources,” said Director, Keoladeo National Park, Nahar Singh.
Formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, the Keoladeo National Park is recognised as one of the world’s most important bird breeding and feeding grounds. It is spread across 29 SqKm area. The park is home to over 370 species of birds and animals . The park offers well-defined bird walks, on foot,bicycle or rickshaws.