As KMC drags heels, 150 oldest and biggest tortoises die in Kanpur’s historic pond
The historic tortoise pond behind the famous Panki temple has been home to the oldest and biggest tortoises for ages.
Unfortunately, the tortoises are falling prey to the utter neglect of Kanpur Municipal Corporation (KMC) and are dying in large numbers.
In the last four years, 150 tortoises have died—the death rate has increased in the last two months when the temperature has soared and the pond has dried.
“Is there a way to save these tortoises? I have written a number of times to the authorities about this issue; they did not heed,” said Surendra Maithani, BJP MLA from Govindnagar. “Such indifference has made me write to the government and seek its intervention. One hundred and fifty tortoises have died so far,” he said.
The pond, said to be 400 years old, spreads in two bighas of land. The water supply was through natural resources but since large scale construction happened the natural inlets disappeared.
Devi Dayal Pathak, who is fighting for the survival of aquatic life, said the situation worsened from 2017 onwards. The KMC’s attention was drawn towards the lack of water in the pond. The corporation decided to spend ₹4 crore with the primary task of having a tubewell.
“The tubewell work never happened; instead the KMC opted for beautification, small bundhs were built in the middle of the pond at three places and the sides of ponds were turned pucca. It all worsened the situation further,” he said, adding that in view of the pond going shallow, the tortoises began dying one by one.
Earlier this week, a big tortoise aged around 30 died leading to a public uproar. Locals alleged that despite many meetings and reminders, the KMC did not get a tubewell. After the public outrage, the KMC sent a contractor who got a tubewell and filled up the pond partially.
District forest officer (DFO) Arvind Yadav said artificially filling the pond was not a solution to this problem. “After some time, the water will dry up. Efforts need to be made to bring in water naturally. We have sought the help of Turtle Alliance and its experts in conserving these turtles,” he said.
Now, the KMC was working to deepen the pond using machines and manually. Experts said this could further harm the tortoises, which get into the mud to survive when the water lessens. “The machines and spades at work can hurt or even kill them,” a forest official said.
Maithani said during winter, last year, several tortoises, each weighing 50 kg, had died but the KMC remained unmoved. Even the commissioner, Kanpur division, Raj Shekhar did nothing, he said.
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