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Ravine rats lose out to beasts

The guns might still boom in Chambal?s treacherous ravines but the dacoits are losing out ? this time, to the wild.

india Updated: Jan 19, 2006 01:16 IST

The guns might still boom in Chambal’s treacherous ravines but the dacoits are losing out — this time, to the wild.

Not many are aware that this lair for dacoits houses one of the most ancient river ecosystems of the world. Prompted by a proposal from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) based in Dehra Dun, the Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh governments have agreed to preserve the area into a world heritage site.

The area, spanning several thousand square kilometers on either side of the Chambal river, is home to many wildlife species. The river, the cleanest in the Gangetic plains, sustains river dolphins, crocodiles, ghariyals ( a type of alligator), freshwater turtles, otters and around 72 species of migratory waterfowls. “This is the world’s only ravine habitat that has over 1,500 wild ghariyals. But lack of coordination between the states has resulted in shoddy management. Steps need to be taken to preserve this area,” said B.C. Choudhary, senior reader at WII.

The zone was transformed into the National Chambal Sanctuary in 1978 to protect the river ecosystem. A plan is being prepared to develop the area into a major tourist destination and a world heritage site.

That the green activists are dreaming big is in large measure due to the success of the police in hunting down the big ravine rats — the most recent being the dreaded Nirbhay Gujjar. Inviting the world to have a peek at Chambal’s wildlife will make the dacoits run for cover, experts hope.

If tourists start trickling in, the socio-economic dynamics of this backward region will change. People will be deterred from taking up arms to fight poverty, caste hierarchy and corruption. “No amount of police action can rid the Chambal ravines of dacoits. Only scientific management plans can help in transforming this so-called valley of death into the valley of life,” said Choudhary.

First Published: Jan 19, 2006 01:16 IST