Bharatpur back in business - with birds

The chirping of birds can be heard again in the world famous Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan.

Bharatpur: The chirping of birds can be heard again in the world famous Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan. Painted storks, cormorants and grey herons are all back to their favourite haunt, now that the sanctuary - parched until two months back - has enough water.

Hit by an acute water crisis, the park in Bharatpur district got a new lease of life when the state government released water from the Panchana Dam in Karauli district and saved it from dying.

"With water reaching the sanctuary, birds have started to come here. Painted storks, which had been leaving the sanctuary as the area did not receive enough rainfall, have returned and started to breed," a forest official told IANS.

The painted stork is a large wading bird in the stork family. It is found in the wetlands of South Asia and extends into Southeast Asia. These birds usually go back with their newborn in February, the official said.

"Besides the painted stork, others like the white eye, spoonbill, grey heron and cormorant, including the little cormorant, have started to come to the sanctuary," the official said.

"We are also expecting the Indian saras to be here soon," the official added.

The sanctuary was for years a favourite destination for a variety of rare birds from India and abroad. But the alarming water shortage in the sanctuary, not far from Agra, had already taken its toll on the turnout of migratory birds.

A large part of the water bodies in the sanctuary had turned into dry land. The entire area had been receiving scanty rainfall for the last couple of years but things turned miserable in 2009.

This year too, it did not receive adequate water. Incidentally, Bharatpur is one of the few districts in Rajasthan which received scanty rainfall this year.

Looking at the gravity of situation, the government decided to release water from Panchana Dam in Karauli district, around 100 km from the sanctuary.

"We have released about 350 mcft (million cubic feet) of water from the dam for the bird sanctuary," said a senior official of the water resource department.

The park, which is located at the confluence of the Gambhir and Banganga ruvers, requires 500-550 mcft of water every year. The minimum water requirement is about 350 mcft.

The water was released in the Keoladeo National Park, also known as the Ghana Bird Sanctuary, in August.

The sanctuary is spread over an area of 28.72 sq km with the lake and wetland artificially created by the Maharaja of Bharatpur in the 19th century.

The area was designated as Keoladeo Ghana Sanctuary in 1965 and was upgraded into the Keoladeo National Park in 1981. Over 370 species of birds and 375 species of flowering plants are usually found here.


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